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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was sailing yesterday in Charleston harbor. As I was crossing the mouth of the Ashley River where it empties into the harbor on a due north heading, I saw off to my starboard a 35" MV coming inbound off ocean on a due west heading. We were clearly going to intersect at some point. I was doing about 5 knots under sail and he about 18 with huge wake. I watched him for about 20 seconds expecting him to alter to port and come across my stern but he kept coming on collision course.

At about 150 yards distance I stood up in the cockpit at which point he did finally alter to port and came across my stern. he also pulled throttle back hopefully trying to reduce his 4' wake. So it turned out well but frankly it was too close for me. I had my air horn in hand as well as hand held VHF. But conditions being clear I kept assuming he would alter. By the time I stood up, VHF would have been too late but I was not sure at what point to hit the horn.

Maybe the guy was texting or just more comfortable than i with the situation but afterwards I found myself processing this so I come here to ask what I could/should have done differently? Obviously seeing him further out and using VHF would have been ideal but inside of a VHF window what would be the next steps to take? At what point does the horn become the best choice? For the record, I am in my sophomore sailing year and still finding myself on a learning curve so please be kind if I was simply stupid :)
 

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Not Finished Yet
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I try to make eye contact. If they are not looking at you, assume they don't see you. If you cannot see them well enough, assume they don't see you. Hit the horn as soon as it seems as if they don't see you. Don't wait until it is too late for them to take evasive action.

No harm in hitting the horn if they see you already. Remember: if you see an impending collision and do nothing to avoid it, you are just as guilty as they are for the result.
 

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Although you were the stand-on vessel, in some situations, you may decide to give way (boat operator not visible, obviously not paying attention, etc)

When giving way, my rule is "Turn right, turn big, turn early".
The meaning of that phrase, is to make a noticeable course change early enough that your intention is telegraphed to the other party. "Turning right" is anecdotally safer than turning left, but that's not a hard-and-fast rule.

The problem with power/sail boat interactions, is that powerboats are much more maneuverable and so, tend to take their actions much later than sailors expect or prefer. This generally adds to the confusion in the situation.
 

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I'm with RainD... hit the horn if they don't indicate, or show signs of seeing you, or alter course...

I'd rather be "that crazy idiot with the rags on his boat going nuts with the horn" than that guy floating in the water after the collision.

It's for this reason I sail with the horn at the ready (next to the tossable PFD)...
 

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If you intend to use the horn, you should do so BEFORE you lose your control over avoiding the collision. That way you can still bail out if there's no give way as a result.

I personally just reconcile to the fact that some boat operators are clueless or inattentive, and take my own evasive action whenever the give way appears to be not doing the job, while it is still safe for me to do so. Usually going head to wind and waiting as needed makes the situation clear to all. Its just the way it is...
 

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Sailingfool - You can probably control your boat much better than the average sailor. Wondering if it would be a good idea for most to stay out of irons, in order to keep better control?

Regarding the horn: would it be five short bursts to get attention?
 

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Inland (this scenario): 1 long + 5 short

Outside Colregs demarcation line; 5 short
 

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A lot of motor boaters do not know that in general sailboats have the right of way. And they are accustomed to much closer distances when avoiding collision. I try not to take my chances and if possible, I alter my own course just slightly as soon as I realize I'm on a collision course with one of these guys.
 

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I think you have to assume that a boat on a beeline is on autopilot and the operator is doing other things. If you are on a collision course then use your horn before you become uncomfortable with the closing distance, at least soon enough that you can take evasive action. Your emergency noise pollution is far less than his normal operation. So what's the big deal about sounding the danger signal? Relying on VHF might be a mistake that consumes too much time.
John
 

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GREETINGS EARTHLINGS : burst thier ear-dums with the air horn and let all the other boater's know the vessels name over the radio, Does the coast Guard know of his movments ? AS ALWAYS GO SAFE
 

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I think the first step should be radio contact, be friendly and ask that they pas to your stern so as to lessen the effect of there wake. I find offering a beer when you get back if you know it is a boat from your marina helps a lot! But I know a lot of the casual power boaters don't keep a radio watch. But do that in enough time that you can attempt to wake him up with the horn, and then make evasive action. I agree that motor boaters seem more comfortable with closer passes as they are far more maneuverable and some enjoy crashing through wakes. Seems that if they ever require a boating license they should make part of the training to go out in a sailboat under sail only. That might give them a lot more understanding why the blow boaters get so upset when things start getting close.
 

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Hey,

When I'm in that situation, I make a course change when the other vessel is around 500 yards away.

This assumes:
-That I am the stand on vessel
-The other vessel is not a larger commercial vessel or a charter fishing boat
-That I have spotted them early, and I am tracking their course and we are, indeed, in a constant bearing decreasing range situation.

When I spot a vessel and determine that we are on a collision course I will determine who is stand on and who is not. If I'm not I will make a large and obvious course change at around 1/2 mile (1000 yards). If I'm stand on I will hold my course and observe the other vessel. If they get to 1/4 mile (500) yards I will change my course.

I usually have an air horn at the helm and I always have a radio too. I almost never bother to hail the other vessel. I used to try, but 99% of the time the other boat never responded. I could start honking horns, but it's just easier for me to change course. Where I usually sail there is a lot of water and it's pretty easy for me to make an adjustment. If I were in a restricted area I would use the VHF pretty early and then follow up with the horn.

Barry
 

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Other things to bear in mind:

Late in the afternoon? Better chance they are drunk or impaired.

Are they looking into the sun, at you? Much less likely they'll see you.

Are you well offshore? Likely they're on autopilot, and not even looking..


Combine all three? Forget right-of way, turn early to pass well astern of him and put yourself in an "opening" pattern with them, you don't want a "closing" pattern where you or other vessel is running out of clearance as you both get closer.
 

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I remember one near-horrible incident in Loch Ness in virtual flat clam, in 2007.
Beautiful morning, just ghosting, and things went something like this...

"That sailboat us under power, he is a long way off but coming right at us. Perhaps he knows us and is coming over".
"Matthew, fetch the binoculars will you?"
"Why is he coming right at us?".
(Through binoculars) "Damn it, there is no-one on watch, he's on autopilot".
5 blasts on the air horn
Still no course change.
5 more
5 more
"Engine start Matthew, hard astern full".
Finally someone appear on watch, alters course, waves and sweeps past, perhaps 8 tons at about 7 knot, enough to smash you to bits, perhaps 30 feet away.
"Is keeping someone on watch too basic for you?", I yell, very angrily, remembering not to swear.
"Is that beneath you?"
"Is that your idea of seamanship?"

My motor is reliable, but heaven help us if it had not started and he had not heard the warning blasts.
The idiot would have cut us in half and sank the both of us in 400 feet of water, in perfect visibility.
Nice autopilot no-doubt.

My young crew had never seen me so angry, and eyed me warily. Even a placid Loch Ness can be dangerous when an autopilot idiot nearly runs in to you, on a beautiful summer's morning, with 20 miles of visibility, and not another boat within 5 miles.
.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks folks... this is all good advice... Strangely enough it happened twice yesterday. Hoping wind shifts to make routing other than cross channel more inviting. :) I agree that vhf is too slow and typically does not get a response anyway . so choices are alter course or go with horn...Sounds about right...
 

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As soon as you look to be on a converging course with a vessel weather you are stand on or off turn 180 degrees and get out of the way there are so many ******** drivers out there its not worth putting your life at risk.You may have right of way but so many stinkpotters wouldnt know port from starboard.Better to be safe than sorry.
 

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I was sailing yesterday in Charleston harbor. As I was crossing the mouth of the Ashley River where it empties into the harbor on a due north heading, I saw off to my starboard a 35" MV coming inbound off ocean on a due west heading. We were clearly going to intersect at some point. I was doing about 5 knots under sail and he about 18 with huge wake. I watched him for about 20 seconds expecting him to alter to port and come across my stern but he kept coming on collision course.

At about 150 yards distance I stood up in the cockpit at which point he did finally alter to port and came across my stern. he also pulled throttle back hopefully trying to reduce his 4' wake. So it turned out well but frankly it was too close for me. I had my air horn in hand as well as hand held VHF. But conditions being clear I kept assuming he would alter. By the time I stood up, VHF would have been too late but I was not sure at what point to hit the horn.

Maybe the guy was texting or just more comfortable than i with the situation but afterwards I found myself processing this so I come here to ask what I could/should have done differently? Obviously seeing him further out and using VHF would have been ideal but inside of a VHF window what would be the next steps to take? At what point does the horn become the best choice? For the record, I am in my sophomore sailing year and still finding myself on a learning curve so please be kind if I was simply stupid :)
funny i saw this thread today. two weekends ago, i was sailing near the inner harbor in my 10' dinghy and i was almost broadsided by two different powerboats within 20 minutes. in 19 years of sailing, i have never had anything like that happen.

with the first guy it was as you said, i realized we were on a direct collision course well ahead of time but, i kept expecting him to change course. the driver was totally visible to me so i know he could have seen me. they had a few passengers and i could see most of them. there was even a guy sitting on the bow but, he was looking back at the driver. none of them were paying any attention to what they were doing, obviously.

i kept thinking, "he's going to change course". he never did. they were within hailing distance (i went out and bought an air horn to carry with me after this happened) when i realized he really wasn't going to change course. thankfully, i was on a tack where i could fall off to port and veer away. while doing this i yelled,"hey!", really loudly. the guy on the bow turned and yelled at te driver and they veered to starboard. the guy on the bow thanked me for yelling. as if i did it for his sake! he did apologize.

it was a shock, and a bit freaky, and i just wasn't ready for it. i never expected something like that to happen. their boat was around 25 feet and pretty hefty. they'd have broken my boat up and driven it and me right under their boat.

when the second guy did it, i was on a different tack and sailing as close to wind as possible. the only way for me to avoid getting hit would to have been to tack and there wasn't the time. to fall off would have i yelled at that guy, also oblivious to what was going on around him, earlier than the first. he veered to port at the last minute, practically swamping me.

the question is, though, in a crowded water way, when is it appropriate to assume someone is not going to avoid a collision and how soon is too soon to blow your horn? you don't want to be a jerk and be blowing your horn at people too soon but, you don't want to be a drowning victim, either. i couldn't really have done anything to avoid that second guy. thankfully, i didn't encounter him first.

by the way, was the 35 inch motor vessel radio controlled? :D
 

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I remember one near-horrible incident in Loch Ness in virtual flat clam, in 2007.
Beautiful morning, just ghosting, and things went something like this...

"That sailboat us under power, he is a long way off but coming right at us. Perhaps he knows us and is coming over".
"Matthew, fetch the binoculars will you?"
"Why is he coming right at us?".
(Through binoculars) "Damn it, there is no-one on watch, he's on autopilot".
5 blasts on the air horn
Still no course change.
5 more
5 more
"Engine start Matthew, hard astern full".
Finally someone appear on watch, alters course, waves and sweeps past, perhaps 8 tons at about 7 knot, enough to smash you to bits, perhaps 30 feet away.
"Is keeping someone on watch too basic for you?", I yell, very angrily, remembering not to swear.
"Is that beneath you?"
"Is that your idea of seamanship?"

My motor is reliable, but heaven help us if it had not started and he had not heard the warning blasts.
The idiot would have cut us in half and sank the both of us in 400 feet of water, in perfect visibility.
Nice autopilot no-doubt.

My young crew had never seen me so angry, and eyed me warily. Even a placid Loch Ness can be dangerous when an autopilot idiot nearly runs in to you, on a beautiful summer's morning, with 20 miles of visibility, and not another boat within 5 miles.
.
the real question, here, is: who has the right of way? a sailboat? or Nessie?:D
 

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As soon as you look to be on a converging course with a vessel weather you are stand on or off turn 180 degrees and get out of the way there are so many ******** drivers out there its not worth putting your life at risk.You may have right of way but so many stinkpotters wouldnt know port from starboard.Better to be safe than sorry.
the problem with that is if you are in a crowded area. i regularly sail around baltimore's inner harbor out around fort mchenry. it's a very crowded area and if you veered to avoid every possible idiot who might hit you, you'd never make any headway. it gets really crowded, there, and, as noted, powerboats tend to wait longer to avoid collision. it makes it difficult to know a real danger situation from one which is not.
 

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I think you did fine, no one hurt. We get a lot of this stuff in my neighborhood, big power boats, big wakes, close passes, poor seamanship. Having the money to buy a big power clorox bottle doesn't correlate with competence or brains. Sounds like this guy was oblivious.

One thing though many sailors don't realize is that in a narrow channel your rights are limited. That is common sense, if you are short tacking a narrow harbor entrance and a power boat is trying to get by, you don't necessarily have the right of way. Still, there's no excuse for an unnecessary close pass and a big wake.

Of course, around here, somehow in the middle of the sound, we get plenty of too close passes by big waking clorox bottle drivers who either aren't looking out the window or maybe it's just "look honey at the sailboat." Remember, they are using more fuel in a day than you use in a season.
 
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