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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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  #21  
Old 12-20-2007
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I always furl sail and motor in thick fog. I have more control for sudden changes in speed or directon that way, the engine is recharging the batteries for having the nav lights on, and only one person is required at the helm. If one can stay warm dry to relieve the helmperson every 30 minutes or so, both will stay fresh and alert. Fog can make you see things that aren't there if you stare too long into it. Listen, listen and listen. Also be aware of smells.
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  #22  
Old 12-20-2007
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The only problem I see with this... is that it handicaps your best defense... your sense of hearing. Often, when I am sailing at night or in fog, the sounds are the first warning I get of different things... If you're motoring, on many boats, the engine noise will drown out those warning sounds.
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I always furl sail and motor in thick fog. I have more control for sudden changes in speed or directon that way, the engine is recharging the batteries for having the nav lights on, and only one person is required at the helm. If one can stay warm dry to relieve the helmperson every 30 minutes or so, both will stay fresh and alert. Fog can make you see things that aren't there if you stare too long into it. Listen, listen and listen. Also be aware of smells.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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  #23  
Old 12-20-2007
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Plumper and Valiente make excellent points. In my opinion, the average sailor makes the same mistake that seamen have always made in fog; the desire to achieve the destination overcomes the practise of prudent seamanship. Particularly on a small sailboat (are there any other kind?), once in fog, the primary goal should be to avoid being run under or running aground. Often the best way to accomplish both is to make for skinny water. The other vessels that are going to kill you, and even if they're making bare steerage way they're going to kill you, will not be able to follow you into shallow water. And, even if you become disoriented, judicious use of the fathometer will ensure your safety. Many is the time when you do not have to know exactly where you are, just that you are out of reach of traffic and not aground. Motoring to safe waters is eminently sensible.

Val's suggestion reminds me of an out of style exercise that can be fun and rewarding. In good weather, have a below deck navigator attempt to steer you in a safe direction with reference to only a last know position, the chart, the compass, and the fathometer. You'll probably be pleasantly surprised at how well you can navigate. Generations of seamen didn't take all those soundings you see on the chart for nothing, eh?
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  #24  
Old 12-21-2007
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There's a reason on the old boat why the original cathode tube sounder (still in perfect working order and perhaps the only British-made electronic device of its age I know of) is right beside the nav table and not the helm...it's to facilitate a navigator calling up the course to the helmsperson who just watches his surroundings and the compass bearing.
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  #25  
Old 12-21-2007
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I was just reminded of a day last summer at the north end of Vancouver Island in thick fog. We were slowly motoring along, monitoring the traffic channel etc, when I noticed that if I got my face down to the water I could see for about a mile. I don't know the physics but the first foot or so above the water was clear and I could see other boats hulls and island shorelines as we picked our way towards the Broughtons. I haven't had the opportunity to see if this is always the case and I have never noticed before because I am usually to high off the water but in this instance it was very useful.

A second note: There is such a thing as bottom contour fixing. Submarines used it for years before inertial nav systems. It is similar to running fixes except you run contour lines along your DR and build a progressively better position (smaller pool of errors). They work best when there is quite a bit of vertical relief on the bottom. The technique sucks when the bottom is fairly smooth.
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  #26  
Old 12-21-2007
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Plumper-

The reason the air just above the water is usually clear is because the water keeps it warm enough to prevent fog from forming, causing a small temperature inversion.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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  #27  
Old 12-22-2007
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Another two things to do when caught in fog:

1) Make sure everyone is on deck, nobody down below.
2) Make sure nobody has a harness clipped to the boat.

Boats go down awfully fast after being rammed by ships.

Andre
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  #28  
Old 12-22-2007
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I'd have to disagree with you on this... since doing a MOB recovery in the fog generally SUCKS. Having people down below and making sure that the people on deck are clipped in makes perfect sense unless you are in IMMEDIATE DANGER of an impact... if not... stay clipped in and on-board the damn boat.
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Another two things to do when caught in fog:

1) Make sure everyone is on deck, nobody down below.
2) Make sure nobody has a harness clipped to the boat.

Boats go down awfully fast after being rammed by ships.

Andre
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Telstar 28
New England

You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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  #29  
Old 12-22-2007
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How do you know when you're in immediated danger?

Fog deadens sound so a very large ship sneaks up on you with relative ease and will be on you before you know it.

When there is fog, there generally is little or no wind and a calm sea. If you stay in the cockpit the need to be clipped on escapes me entirely. Your ONLY danger is collision.

The ship that rams you isn't going to hang about while you rustle up everybody from down below. And the widely used report of the family rammed off New Zealand will confirm that their boat sank with their son still in his bunk and their boat was a strongly-built 43ft boat (not a 28ft light-weight multi )

Still to each his own, I suspect there will be strong supporters on both sides of this fence.

Andre
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  #30  
Old 12-22-2007
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A good point on a bit of a misnomer. Not much sailing get's done actually in fog as there's genereally little wind and little sea running. It's quite logical to weigh the advantages of being tethered to a barely moving boat against the ability to possess free movement.
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