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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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  #11  
Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

It was dead calm and we were under power. The freighter was overtaking so we're still the stand-on vessel. This was wide-open water, there were no issues of draft constraint and there are no marked shipping lanes. I don't know why the freighter was changing course. Better cell reception near shore? Someone needed to make a phone call?

I don't think I violated COLREGS because the last time I changed course was 10-20 minutes before the freighter overtook us. I just worry that I might have been irritating them.


Call them on the VHF. Duh. I have to be honest, that never occurred to me. They were so alien large that the idea that you could even talk to them just never came up. I can imagine the call: "Big honking vessel to my aft, big honking vessel to my aft, big honking vessel to my aft, this is a tiny plastic Hunter."

Seriously, that never occurred to me. I will next time. It's a large, lonely lake. It's not like they're getting constant chatter, we were probably the first boat they'd seen all day. I'll totally bug them next time. And you use 13 for commercial vessels? I didn't know that.
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  #12  
Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

Hmm. My experience may be skewed as I sail in the Puget Sound and we have a very narrow shipping lane. The rule is if you see a freighter or tugboat, get the F*** out of the way and stay away until they are well clear.
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Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimMcGee View Post
Mark, I know you have a LOT more sea miles than I do but when it comes to big ships I'd rather just stay out of their way.

It just seems like the more prudent course of action.
No, I am a vessle and waterway user. I have the same rights under Colregs as them.

It is just wrong, imprudent and dangerous to think you need to stay out of their way.

It may be fine in a small body of water like the Chesepeake where a local boat knows the area and ships are confined to a slim channel, but in many other areas of the world it's unsafe to leave charted waters. If you think you can slink down the side and go closer to shore or a light than a ship you may well be wrong. A ship has the routes plotted from many trips and he is far more likely to cut close to a mark or lighthouse.

Quite simply they are going about their business and one gets used to their methods and they are nothing to be afraid of.
Remember not only have I seen it round the world but also a fair slab of the USA and they are the same. Very similar world wide except local shipping in Asia which is a pain, and some Greek ferry drivers.

One thing, though, is to realise they can't work out what you are doing easily, so Minnes 10 degree change of course would not have registered at all. For them to see it try 40 or 50 degrees. Hold that for a few mins then come slowly back to the correction you want.

Also to check which way he is going when approaching from astern I look at his forward mast and count the bridge windows either side of it. Much more acurate than any other method.

But as I said in the original post, the photo shows a huge clearence. I would be very comfortable at that passing distance.

I know its scary when first confronted with ships, but they really ok. They are highly maneuverable, well designed and know where they are going... And will always save an ounce of fuel by cutting 10 feet off their route.

:

You wait till you go in the same lock as a ship. That fun! Lololol. We were in one where the oil tanker was so close in front of us. When the gates opened and he hit FULL SPEED AHEAD! Actually he didnt... He just touched the prop and gently eased forward... It still created quite a wash

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Last edited by MarkofSeaLife; 09-10-2013 at 03:19 AM.
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Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkofSeaLife View Post
It may be fine in a small body of water like the Chesepeake where a local boat knows the area and ships are confined to a slim channel, but in many other areas of the world it's unsafe to leave charted waters.
I'd argue that the Chesapeake is not a small body of water, but that is a digression.

We are all limited by what we know. If charts are inadequate you have to plan accordingly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkofSeaLife View Post
One thing, though, is to realise they can't work out what you are doing easily, so Minnes 10 degree change of course would not have registered at all. For them to see it try 40 or 50 degrees. Hold that for a few mins then come slowly back to the correction you want.
Definitely agree. Make course changes early and big so your intentions are clear.
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Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

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Originally Posted by Minnesail View Post
.......I can imagine the call: "Big honking vessel to my aft, big honking vessel to my aft, big honking vessel to my aft, this is a tiny plastic Hunter."......
Funny.

Gave me a thought about the encounter, however. If you're not close enough to a freighter to be able to read their name with a set of binoculars, then both vessels are free to do whatever they please. There is zero collision risk. Once collision does come become a possibility, the regs and radio come into play.

On an additional note, if you do need to hail a commercial vessel, whose name you can't see, using their position and direction will typically get their attention. eg..... Freighter entering xxxx channel southbound, this is sailing vessel xxxxx 1 mile off your port bow, over.
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Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnesail View Post
It was dead calm and we were under power. The freighter was overtaking so we're still the stand-on vessel. This was wide-open water, there were no issues of draft constraint and there are no marked shipping lanes. I don't know why the freighter was changing course. Better cell reception near shore? Someone needed to make a phone call?
Hi Minnesail, I know the area fairly well, and it is very odd indeed to have a freighter make a continual course change as you describe. The freighters all follow the well-charted shipping lanes. I assume they are mostly running on auto, with GPS coordinates driving their course changes. It would be very odd to have a helms person making erratic course changes. You and the freighter were running down-bound. The charts clearly indicate both up-bound and down-bound lanes. The location of your incident would normally have freighters running on a SE (~150 degree) course from Whitefish Pt. If it was doing something other than that, then I would indeed be concerned. There's a fair bit of space in the top of Whitefish bay, but not if freighters start moving willy-nilly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnesail View Post
Call them on the VHF. Duh. I have to be honest, that never occurred to me. They were so alien large that the idea that you could even talk to them just never came up. I can imagine the call: "Big honking vessel to my aft, big honking vessel to my aft, big honking vessel to my aft, this is a tiny plastic Hunter."
I once heard the opposite correspondence come over VHF 68 when we were near Thunder Cape (top of Thunder Bay). Spoken in English, but in a thick East European accent, it went something this: "Little sailboat. Little sailboat, in the shipping lanes near Thunder Cape; Get out of the way!" (It was not us they were talking to, but it sure made me take notice.)

My attitude towards freighters is to stay out of their way. The shipping lanes are marked, and I usually have a lot more options than they do. They move very fast, even in confined waters, and are not very manoeuvrable. So far I've never seen one behaving as oddly as you describe. I think I would have made for the west shore (hard to starboard), and let it pass. If it was really behaving recklessly, I believe their are Seaway authorities you could report it to.
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Last edited by MikeOReilly; 09-10-2013 at 08:15 AM.
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Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

The lanes can be fairly tight on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Here's a pic of us being overtaken by a freighter in the St. Mary's River, just south of Sault Ste. Marie. We were running close to the channel marker, but not beyond b/c the channel shallows very fast through here (it is dredged).
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Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?-st-mary-river.jpg  
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Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

I believe that most sailboats will make unsatisfying crunchy sound while bouncing off ships, so I tend to stay out of their way regardless of whether I'm the stand on boat.

ya ya, I have an obligation etc. Um, not when the ship is four miles away. Stand on and give way does have range limits (normally given as line of sight, but I'm near sighted). I maneuver as needed to stay out of their way.

After that, the VHF and screaming frantically occasionally works but I've found that a good measured profession sounding tone is generally better.
Just hope the answer to "what are your intentions" isn't "Crush you under my bow"
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Old 09-10-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
On an additional note, if you do need to hail a commercial vessel, whose name you can't see, using their position and direction will typically get their attention. eg..... Freighter entering xxxx channel southbound, this is sailing vessel xxxxx 1 mile off your port bow, over.
When I first started sailing a long time ago my success rate at communication with commercial shipping as you propose was about 80%. As crews have shrunk and AIS has become ubiquitous I find that if you don't have the name of the ship you are unlikely to get a response. In constricted waters (LIS, Chesapeake, Charleston, Beaufort (both of them), SF, LA, etc.) an AIS receiver is becoming a piece of safety equipment. YMMV.
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

Your 10 degree changes were not nearly enough. If you are going to make a change of course, make a really significant one---30-45 degrees and hold that course. Also, make sure that you have figured correctly what the ship's course is so that you don't make a move that is going to ultimately close the ship. (Caution, though, if you are stand on vessel and you make a turn that causes an accident, you will be liable, so decide what you are going to do before it ever gets to be "stand on - give way" incident. You can always resume course after the ship passes. In all probability, the ship didn't see your course change, and/or small boats often are a little erratic in maintaining a given course, and you may have confused the ship when he looked at you to try to figure your course. He's big and fast, you are small and slow. Don't play chicken with him. Make your course change early.

Also, If there were other small boats or traffic in the area, or depth/obstruction restrictions, the ship has to take all into consideration to steer the best course. He is not nearly as maneuverable as you and his big picture of where to go reaches out way further than yours because of maneuverability and speed.

There are also numerous stories about no one paying attention on large ships that are steaming on autopilot. What happens then if you play the game of letting him maneuver around you because you were stand on vessel?
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