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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.