Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 53 Old 09-09-2013 Thread Starter
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Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

I don't have a lot of keelboat experience, and only one day of experience driving with big commercial traffic around me.

I'm wondering if I messed up my first encounter with a big boat, or if he was messing with me?

We're on Lake Superior heading east to the locks at Sault Ste. Marie. After you round Whitefish Point and head south east everyone is going to be on pretty much the same course.

I spotted a boat on the horizon (the first one we'd seen in over 12 hours) and looked at it through the binoculars and saw that it was a giant freighter and that we were looking at it's starboard side. I even took a couple sightings with a hand-bearing compass to verify that it was going to pass on our port.

I took the helm and about twenty minutes later someone said "That boat is headed dead at us," and I turned around and sure enough we were looking straight down its bow.

It's probably still four miles away, maybe more, so we're not exactly in a collision situation. I realize that the rules of the road indicate that I'm the stand on vessel and should stay put. However, he's a long ways away and I don't want to make trouble, so I turn 10 to starboard, closer to shore, to stay out of his way. We watch, pretty soon we can see the freighter's starboard side again, all is good.

And then twenty minutes later.... Once more someone says "That boat is headed right at us again." So I turn another 10 towards the shore. We watch until we see the side of the freighter again.

And twenty minutes later... "Dude, that boat is following us! It's headed right at us again." At this point I'm baffled. This is my first time around big boats and I feel a little scared. The owner was below so I called him up and asked him what I should do. He said "Well if that boat keeps following us when we head towards shore, turn the other way and head out." So I went 20 to port.

I'm not sure, but I think the freighter may have headed a bit back towards us again! After another 10 minutes or so all 1000 feet of American Spirit passed about 100 yards to our starboard side.


So was I messing up by changing course at all? Since I was stand-on should I have just stayed put? Was I doing that thing where you try to pass someone in the hallway and you both keep moving to the same side?

Or is it possible the freighter was messing with me? I almost feel like he might have been bored and just wanted to see what we were.
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post #2 of 53 Old 09-09-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

If you're ever in a situation like that, you can always call his bridge and ask his intentions and how he would like to pass you.
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post #3 of 53 Old 09-09-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

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So was I messing up by changing course at all? Since I was stand-on should I have just stayed put?

Or is it possible the freighter was messing with me? I almost feel like he might have been bored and just wanted to see what we were.
Heres a few rules:

You only get comfortable with shipping after you play in their ditch for a while. Panama and Singapore straits will have you relaxed again.

Many ships bridge crew are not as good as the forum ex-cargo guys suggest. The captain may well be below and only surface when they are coming up to a lock or narrow part. Remember he is going to be on his feet a lot. At sea at night the captain is asleep and at 3am a sh!t-kicker holds the wheel.

Now go read Colregs again about the stand on vessel. YOU STAND ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If some bastard is playing games get on the VHF and scream the jerk down on 16 till the Coast guard of both countries are laughing their heads off!

Also with nose back in Colregs ships may claim they are constrained but they are just pulling your leg.

Back in Colregs again, even if a ship is constrained up a channel he cant just run some bum over!

Finally, get an AIS and shout at him by name But he wont do weird things to boats with AIS because its all digitally recorded.

BTW the photo shows the ship miles away. You can get much closer and have a chat


Have fun the rest of the trip! Its a great run through


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Last edited by MarkofSeaLife; 09-09-2013 at 09:39 PM.
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post #4 of 53 Old 09-09-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

It takes a long time to stop a ship that big. When I was around commercial traffic on the Delaware I always gave them plenty of room and moved out of the channel so I was out of their way.

Donna's 100% right. After the second course correction I'd have hailed them on the VHF on channel 13. After all there may have been a legitimate reason for his course corrections that had nothing to do with you.

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post #5 of 53 Old 09-09-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

I'm not familiar with Lake Superior where he was sailing, but in the Chesapeake Bay it isn't too much of an issue since any small boat can stay outside of the channel and the ships are restricted so they can't "chase" anyone, but I have called while in the C&D canal and the ship was grateful for the contact.

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post #6 of 53 Old 09-09-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

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At sea at night the captain is asleep and at 3am a sh!t-kicker holds the wheel.

Now go read Colregs again about the stand on vessel. YOU STAND ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If some bastard is playing games get on the VHF and scream the jerk down on 16 till the Coast guard of both countries are laughing their heads off!

Mark
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.
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

I was hoping he had his tongue in his cheek somewhere.

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post #8 of 53 Old 09-09-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

Did you look at your chart ? Were you going the wrong way in a shipping lane ?

Colregs are a a nice logical set of rulles but there is only one real rule of the road ...
He who is biggest wins.
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post #9 of 53 Old 09-09-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

He wasn't messing with you. I don't know the waters, but looking at the chart (14961 ) it looks like he would have to make two course changes to line himself up in a traffic seperation area/zone That might be what was happening?

One turn at outer pancake shoal, another around Ile Parisienne Lt. ?

As Donna said, if you know their routes you'll know what to expect.
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post #10 of 53 Old 09-09-2013
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Re: Was the freighter messing with me, or did I mess up?

I thought colregs dictated that something as poorly maneuverable as a freighter would be the stand on in this meet up? Under sail would be stand on in all situations except when encountering a stalled vessel or a commercial vessel with limited stopping power and maneuverability?
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