After trying, and failing, to move to the Schuylkill River, the Duck Boats will return to Delaware River in a couple of days. They are shortening their time in the water, putting a permanent lookout on the pier where they enter, and must have a high speed rescue/tow boat available. All of this is because they will still enter the water right into a busy shipping channel (no way to avoid that on the Philly side of the river), which is a very sub-optimal situation:
I'll have to wait to see what their full route is, but this article says they will stay within 100 feet of shore - which means they'll be right in the shipping channel the whole time. It seems to me it would be much safer to just proceed across the channel as quickly as possible (upon clearance from their lookout), and head down the river outside the channel.
"The Coast Guard changed its rules to require ducks to stay within 300 feet of the Philadelphia shore, instead of 1,000 feet. Sumwalt said that change kept the ducks from moving to the relative safety of the Camden shore; instead, they had to stay in the shipping channel..."
This was exactly my point in my April 19 post - just look at the chart I showed. It seems obvious that it would have been safer to quickly cross the narrow channel than to stay in it for their entire tour south along the Penns Landing area. I had noticed that issue a couple years ago when I did the tour with my son's 6th grade class.
As I said in that message, their new rule since restarting operations in April is that they need to stay within 100 feet of shore. I'm not sure if "shore" is defined as the end of the boat ramp, or the end of the Race Street "Pier" (which is actually a seawall filled in with dirt, so it could be considered "shore"). If the former, that would be safer because they would not even get to the channel, but there's absolutely nothing that any tourist would want to see there. It's like launching a boat on a trailer ramp and not even getting out of the fairway.
Click here for a satellite pic of the area. You can see the Duck's boat ramp between the pier and the bridge.
Last year I stayed for a time in a condo on the pier just below the Maritime museum and the square-rigger "Moshulu" (condo is where you see "Chart House" on the ariel view link in above post). The downbound ships passed *really close* to the end of that pier, say about 150 feet.
So the issue isn't staying out of the traffic because that may be impossible--it's lookout, lookout, lookout. And cell phones, computers (other than live e-chart ones) texting, twitting, are all incompatible with "standing a watch".
"Every vessel shat at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate.."
So please, hang up and friggin' navigate. the stakes are too high.
When near a shipping lane or other heavy traffic area a few minutes laps in a visual watch can end your life.
This was last Sunday midday. I was sailing down river under main only, 5kn breeze not enough for good headsail control with boat wakes, between the shipping lane and the PA bulkhead up river from the Commodore Barry Bridge.
A container ship with tugs came up river under the bridge, about a minute later I could see that it was a Banacol ship and I had just passed the Banacol terminal on the PA side.
Black smoke from one of the tugs suggested they had commenced to move the ship toward the PA bulkead. It was obvious I was close to the area they needed for the turn.
Dropped my outboard back in the water (in while sailing gives me maybe 1/4 kn drag), started and began my turn away from them and down river. By this time I was directly between the ship and the PA bulkhead just down river from the Banacol dock.
More black smoke from the tug. I suspect but don't know for sure, they had planned to exit the shipping lane down river from the facility, but changed to exit up river from the facility to avoid my slow moving sail boat.
The ship and tug exited the shipping lane up river from Green E1, I moved out into the shipping lane and motored up river. The ship and tugs used the entire width between shipping lane and bulkhead to turn and come alongside the PA bulkhead.
Then I exited the shipping lane as a Mearsk ship round the bend down river from Little Tinicum Island.
The ship and tugs maintained a good watch, I was under motor as soon as I could see that they would leave the shipping lane in my direction.
But could'a, would'a, should'a, gave them a call on 13 or 16 to let them know what my plan was.
I had a similar thing happen a couple of weeks ago. I was motoring toward southwest past Ft. Mifflin just upriver from 3F, outside the channel but approaching a bulkhead on the Philly side. A large tanker was stationary in the anchorage area across the channel near Riverwinds, but he was pointed toward the Philly side with a tug behind him. I paused for a few seconds to see if he was doing anything, but both visual observation and AIS told me he wasn't moving. So I proceeded past as quickly as I could motor. After I was past the AIS showed them speeding up, and they moved toward the dock and ultimately tied up there. I should have been more aggressive about making radio contact, especially since I knew the tug's name (its name was obscured by the tanker, but AIS showed me the name). If I knew that's where he was heading I would have gladly steered behind them. But for all I knew, the tug could have been intending to back away from the boat and I would have been in the way if I steered behind him.
Yesterday we were tacking downriver against the current in the same area. One of those big white Del Monte freighters was heading downriver in the channel. I ran out of room and had to tack toward the channel. Having resolved to be more assertive with the radio, I wanted to contact the guy to let him know that I saw him and would stay out of his way by coming about before I reached the channel. But instead of sending a general call to him, I selected his vessel on the AIS list and attempted to place a DSC call to him on Ch13. However, he did not acknowledge the call. In the minutes that I waited for him to acknowledge I was almost to the point where I wanted to tack anyway, so I gave up on calling him and just came about to get out of his way.
By the way, for those who think the lack of acknowledgment might have been a bad antenna connection, that's always possible, but I have placed DSC test calls to boats before (nonverbal digital tests), with about 50% success at getting an acknowledgement. My owners manual says that the failures were likely boats whose radios were not configured to automatically acknowledge test calls.
Despite the frustration of not getting a DSC call answered, I am absolutely thrilled with the new AIS radio. I get really clear data on what boats are coming my way (long before I can make visual ID). Often these are boats that are "sneaking up behind me." More importantly, I get very good predictions of how much time I have to get out of their way (the chartplotter program shows me 5 minute vectors for my boat and theirs), and can make decisions with much more confidence that I will avoid a collision.
ON this day one year ago was the mishap.. The local news was all over the issue once again. EVERY, report completely downplayed the Duck "captain's" actions. The frigging idiot dropped anchor and text his girlfriend! In an active shipping channel! Sorry, I just don't feel that because the tug and barge are WAY BIGGER that they should bear the blame alone.