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post #1 of 6 Old 03-06-2019 Thread Starter
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Commercial shipping on Chesapeake Bay

I was watching a program about the undersea cable repair ship out of Baltimore "Atlantic Guardian" and got to thinking about shipping hazards on the bay. We occasionally see bulk freighters and other ships on the great lakes, but probably no where near the volume seen on Chesepeake Bay.

Does commercial shipping ever pose a problem with sailboats on the bay? Have there been close calls with commercial traffic? I would think that the shipping lanes are quite narrow.
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post #2 of 6 Old 03-07-2019
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Re: Commercial shipping on Chesapeake Bay

Almost all commercial ships transiting the Chesapeake are required to take on a Chesapeake Bay Pilot to guide the vessel along the length of the bay. The pilots are experienced, many of them with decades of tenure guiding ships in the bay. I believe the pilot program is hugely helpful in accident avoidance.

Ship to pleasure boat collisions are surprisingly rare although they have happened. Usually it comes down to a pleasure boat operator misjudging the amount of time they have to cross in front of a ship or to the pleasure boat operator just being plain oblivious to being in the ship’s path. It is not at all unusual to hear a ships horn blasting at a pleasure boat, but this usually resolves the situation without further incident.

For the most part, once you’re north of the Norfolk/Hampton Roads area, almost all large commercial vessels are headed either to or from Baltimore. At the wider and deeper parts of the Bay where there are no designated shipping channels, a small boat operator can at least take comfort in knowing that the large ships are only traveling north-south and that they are confined to water deeper than 50 feet. With these parameters, they’re pretty easy to avoid. In the parts of the Bay where there are designated shipping channels, the best advice is to just stay out of the channels except as absolutely necessary to cross them. At the Bay Bridge and the approaches to Baltimore you can sometimes be forced into close quarters with commercial traffic, but in most other places it is not that hard to keep a healthy distance as the bay is generally at least 4 miles wide.

What I find more of a threat than large freighters are dredge and equipment barges. They’re not as draft constrained so will oftentimes surprise you by being in places you wouldn’t expect to see a large commercial vessel. They don’t even necessarily stay in designated channels. But as long as you’re not trying to play chicken with them, they’ll generally keep their distance to the extent they’re able.

All this said, it’s generally other pleasure boat operators, fishing charter operators, and watermen (commercial fishermen) who cause far, far, far more headaches on the Chesapeake than large shipping traffic ever could.

Last edited by 4arch; 03-07-2019 at 01:47 PM.
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Re: Commercial shipping on Chesapeake Bay

I think thatís a good summary. The DELAWARE Bay is worse because you have various dredging operations, oil badges lightering, various rugs and tows, the intersection with the C&D canal, and faster tidal currents. Coming out of the canal at night can be quite bewildering.

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post #4 of 6 Old 03-07-2019
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Re: Commercial shipping on Chesapeake Bay

A couple hove to several years ago to go below and "take a nap." A freighter captain coming up the bay ran his ship aground to avoid running down the sailboat.

The sailboat skipper got sued and the judge handed him the freighter's $1 million yard bill.

True story and a cautionary tale about "right of way."
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Re: Commercial shipping on Chesapeake Bay

Quote:
Originally Posted by drew1711 View Post
A couple hove to several years ago to go below and "take a nap." A freighter captain coming up the bay ran his ship aground to avoid running down the sailboat.

The sailboat skipper got sued and the judge handed him the freighter's $1 million yard bill.

True story and a cautionary tale about "right of way."

I suppose they thought they were the stand-on vessel since they were under sail, but if the freighter was constrained by draft then... But it's everybody's duty to avoid a collision.


Do you have a link to this event? I'd be interested to read more about it.

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post #6 of 6 Old 03-07-2019
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Re: Commercial shipping on Chesapeake Bay

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Do you have a link to this event?
I do not. It was reported in the news several years ago, maybe even ten or so.
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