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sailaway21 05-06-2008 03:08 PM

Stay in the skinny water!
Ships seem to do odd things when proceeeding in a channel or river. The attached article referrs to Texas Chicken as practised in the Houston Ship Channel but it's done the same way the world over, most notably in my experience within the Kiel canal in fog, and it's a good idea for the sailor to have an idea of what is going on.

There are many ship-handling books that will describe such matters as bow cushion, stern suction, squatting, and bank cushion to you. It's hardly essential that the sailor fully understand the concepts but he should know that they're there and of real importance in situations where the waters are confined either in breadth or depth. Those in Houston/Galveston or the C&D canal may have perhaps seen ships heading right at one another and reasonably asked why they did not just move over instead of apparently heading into each other directly. The answer is control of the vessel and the link below gives about as good a photo of it as any.

Given that 50,000 tons is hardly a large ship any more, it's a good idea when transitting these areas to stay in the "skinny" water outside the channel lest you get caught up in a game of chicken that makes no sense to you. Suffice it to say that, when ships are meeting in such a manner on the Mississippi or in the C&D, once the manoeuver is agreed upon there is no going back or just stopping it. The unlucky sailor who ventures into the middle of such a manoeuver will find the ships unable to respond to his presence. Best to stay safe by staying shallow. The major advantage the small boat, even most big boats, have is that they can hide or run to skinny water where the danger cannot follow them. If a 50,000 ton ship can transit with a foot of water under her keel, it makes no sense for the sailor to insist on all he can get at the risk of collision.
Kennebec Captain: Texas Chicken

Valiente 05-06-2008 11:50 PM

That's interesting. It's like the dynamics of locks, which are also sometimes counter-intuitive and frequently underestimated. Close study of split corks in rain gutters and kitchen sinks is informative here...

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