Final Report into Collision between Ella's Pink Lady & bulk Carrier Silver Yang - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 02-14-2012
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Final Report into Collision between Ella's Pink Lady & bulk Carrier Silver Yang

It's been out for a while, however I just noticed that the final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau is available on the collision between Jessica Watson's Ella's Pink Lady and the bulk carrier Silver Yang. This happened back in 2009, prior to Jessica leaving on her round the world trip.

Makes interesting reading with a few lessons for all of us. Basically the report found that both vessels were at fault for not keeping a proper lookout. A couple of points I found interesting were:
  • For 30 minutes prior to the collision the Silver Yang's watchkeepers were "chatting" and did not see Ella Pink Lady until 2.5 minutes prior to the collision. Appears they were not monitoring their radar or AIS, (which detected the yacht's AIS 38 minutes prior to the collision);
  • Appears Jessica did not understand the workings of some of her electronic aids, ie her AIS alarm was turn off, radar transponder was turn off and her split screen radar / Navstation display was set on a confusing setting;
  • issues with Class B AIS signals not being detectable by other vessels, yet it was detected by land based AIS systems;
  • approx 50% of the time large vessels do not offer any assistance to smaller vessels and the majority did not even respond to calls on VHF channel 16!
The report can be downloaded from here (the complete 56 page report can be downloaded from the "Download final report" section located on the right hand side of the screen).

Ilenart
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Old 02-14-2012
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Interesting read. Northbound ship, southeastbound sloop under sail. Clear night, half moon shining. Ship's second mate chatting with helmsman, didn't see sailboat (green light seen) off his port bow til 2 and a half minutes before collision, thought it was a fishing boat. He steered to stbd but grazed the sailboat's stbd bow and rail along his port side, and broke the mast above the spreaders.

Jessica Watson scanned the area 5 minutes before going to bed for a catnap but didn't see the ship (!) which would have been a mile off stbd bow then. Wow.

AIS was not used effectively. Radar guard alarms weren't set on the sailboat until she turned in, by which time ship was already inside the inner 2-mile guard ring so no alarm. No passive radar reflector, and active reflector was turned off (!)

Rotten job of lookout by both vessels. Lucky the result wasn't worse.

'
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Old 02-14-2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nolatom View Post
Jessica Watson scanned the area 5 minutes before going to bed for a catnap but didn't see the ship (!) which would have been a mile off stbd bow then. Wow.
Yea, I could'nt figure that one out either. In my experience on a clear night moving ships can be detected 5-10NM away. One less than 1NM should of been easy to see.

She also checked her radar 5 minutes before the collision and did not detect a 64,000t ship, though it appears she may of been reading the radar incorrectly.

Still, after this little experience I bet her lookout and equipment skills improved dramatically. And we know it did, as she did fine for the next 25,000NM

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Old 02-14-2012
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Agree, a valuable lesson and after this stutter-step start, she did great, my hat's off to her.

The Aus. investigation even had a term for looking right at something but not seeing it--"change blindness" or "inattention blindness". Sort of like, "Who are you going to believe, your radar/AIS, or your lying eyes?"
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Old 02-14-2012
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This is very interesting and I think I'm going to add a section to my book based on it.

Things I know: ship lights are very difficult to interpret against a black background. It is impossible to judge distance, and just looking at a red light does on a black background not give any sense of where the ship is heading. It is also impossible to tell a ship from a bouy just looking at the lights. (I know both of these from harrowing experience.) At two in the morning, it is a very bad idea to only rely on your blurry eyes and sleepy judgement alone.

If I was to read anything into this, I'd say the main lesson is to make sure you are absolutely familiar with using your electronic devices (AIS, RADAR, etc) before setting out. It sounds like the accident would have been avoided if she had been using the equipment to its full advantage.

Any thought of blaming the ship, or of asking ships to change their watch policies, is worthless. The singlehander is totally responsible for her own safety. That's the rule we play under.
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Old 02-14-2012
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I also think the problem can be information over-load for the single hander. We now have so much electronics on board that we forget we should have a good look around on a regular basis, instead of just looking at chart plotter, radar, or AIS screen. Actually, if we did away with the electronics, and only depended on our eyes, we may be better off.
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Old 02-14-2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FoolishMuse View Post
This is very interesting and I think I'm going to add a section to my book based on it.

Things I know: ship lights are very difficult to interpret against a black background. It is impossible to judge distance, and just looking at a red light does on a black background not give any sense of where the ship is heading. It is also impossible to tell a ship from a bouy just looking at the lights. (I know both of these from harrowing experience.) At two in the morning, it is a very bad idea to only rely on your blurry eyes and sleepy judgement alone.

If I was to read anything into this, I'd say the main lesson is to make sure you are absolutely familiar with using your electronic devices (AIS, RADAR, etc) before setting out. It sounds like the accident would have been avoided if she had been using the equipment to its full advantage.

Any thought of blaming the ship, or of asking ships to change their watch policies, is worthless. The singlehander is totally responsible for her own safety. That's the rule we play under.

Agree on all you said, except about it being impossible to tell a ship from a buoy just by her lights. True, if the ship is going away from you and all you see is a stern light. But if you see a red or green sidelight, on any ship over 50 meters long, you should also see white mast and range lights. These two, one a bit higher than the other, are pretty distinctive in my experience and do tell you which way she's headed depending on how closed or open-looking they are.

Less easy for the smaller ships though, which will have only one mast light, so you can't get a an angle of heading. But Jessica was looking at (but not seeing) a ship that should've been showing her two whites open to port, and a red sidelight, and if she watched for a minute or two, a steady bearing and decreasing distance. Which equals danger, danger...
killarney_sailor and ottos like this.

Last edited by nolatom; 02-14-2012 at 06:43 PM.
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Old 03-01-2012
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Why we can't see nav lights at night??

This thread discussed why Jessica Watson didn't see the lights of the ship off to her starboard that grazed her, on a clear night. the NZ report described the phenomena of "change blindness" and "inattention blindness".

Sounded dubious to me, but then from a non-sailing friend I got the attached "vision test" wherein peripheral lights seem to disappear while you're staring at a central light:

MSF

Could this be an example? I don't know, but found it spooky.
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Old 03-01-2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nolatom View Post
This thread discussed why Jessica Watson didn't see the lights of the ship off to her starboard that grazed her, on a clear night. the NZ report described the phenomena of "change blindness" and "inattention blindness".

Sounded dubious to me, but then from a non-sailing friend I got the attached "vision test" wherein peripheral lights seem to disappear while you're staring at a central light:

MSF

Could this be an example? I don't know, but found it spooky.
I don't think that is what they were talking about, but it is pretty spooky. Particularly when you consider that the background of waves, clouds, et cetera, would be in constant motion, while a sleep deprived solo skipper would tend to just "stare into space" without moving her/his eyes very much.
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Old 03-01-2012
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I sleep deprivation certainly could be involved. SD makes you 'stupid' - don't ask how I know.
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