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Barquito
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Discussion Starter #1
I don't really have all of the details. I was just listening on the radio. Here in Milwaukee we have a high speed ferry that crosses Lake Michigan a few times a day. In order to get out of the Milwaukee harbor it goes through one of the smaller cuts in the seawall near it's berth. When it leaves they announce on the radio and blast the horn. However, today there was a sail race going on that, as part of the course, went through the same cut the ferry goes through, producing a long line of sailboats. The wind was blowing 20-25kt. The ferry captain hailed any and all sailboats... no answer. He had to keep the boat in place for about 15 min while the race passed. Because he had somewhat limited mobility, would he be the stand-on vessel? Would you heave-to, and let him pass during a race? Just wondering.

 

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Actually in this case it sounds like the sailboats were in the wrong but it isn't definate.

The biggest question is if the sailboat race had recieved a permit from the USCG. Since they are required for any organized on the water activity they should have but I highly doubt that they did for the following:

1) I would find it pretty incredible that the coast guard would issue such a permit given the extremely narrow channel and the necessity of the ferry to use it. Unless it was some major regatta with lots of press and notice I just can't see it happening.

2) if they were small boats then it doesn't sound like it would have been required to race there and only there. Making it even more unlikely that the race was permitted.

3) if it was permitted then it would have been published in the local notice to mariners. The NOM is generally ignored by recreational boaters, but ferry captains do read it. So he would have known about the regatta, and not been suprized by the fact that it was there

Assuming that the event was un-permitted then the sailboats were in the wrong. He may have been the give way vessel, and is still of course required to maneuvered to prevent a collision, but the organizers of the race could be subject to some pretty sever penalties.
 

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islander bahama 24
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sailboat when sailing has the right of way over an unemcumbered power vessel.* It means a vessel under power that is not performing any other duties that might hamper its ability to maneuver.* Some of the types of activities in question may be commercial fishing, towing, restricted by draft, and not under command (eg, broken down or malfunctioning). The moment a vessel under power becomes encumbered, it gets the right of way.as soon as the ferry approached the cut it became encomberd. There for the stand on vessel
 

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Obviously a sailboat race should never interfere with commercial traffic, but how does approaching a seawall opening encumber a powerboat? I wouldn't think he was encumbered until his ability to maneuver was affected, and as long as he sits outside of the cut and waits, he can maneuver OK.
 

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islander bahama 24
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The vessel has to align with the cut in relation to wind current and tidal flow and station keeping to wait outside for the sailboats would make the ferry limited in maneuverability
 

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Tartan 27' owner
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Obviously a sailboat race should never interfere with commercial traffic
<snip>
And a ferry is commercial traffic too.
The race organizers apparently did not consider this aspect.
We frequently have to give way to a tug & barge(s) crossing our race course.
 

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Barquito
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Discussion Starter #7
I think the race may have been permitted. The CG was 'directing traffic' in the harbor that afternoon. If there are any other Milwaukee sailors online, they would probably know better than me.
 

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Administrator
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For a sailing forum its amazing how many here seem to hate people who sail!

The sailing race was probably well organised and had liased with the Harbour Master, Coast Guard or whoever the bloody authorities are in that country and said something like "On Any Sunday is football, but Saturday afternoon on the harbour is sailing".

The same happens on Sydney Harbour the ferrys vary their routes/sppeds/attitudes etc so they dont kill tax payers. The harbour (and your break in the seawall) is owned by everyone, not just one boat that uses it a few times per day... And if he is HIGH SPEED could have quickly run up to the next hole in the seawall :)

Otherwise any ******** with 2 paying passengers could disrupt the running of the Americas Cup...




Mark
 
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Sailboat Reboot
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Well - I lived and raced in Milwaukee for 7 years. There are three cuts through the breakwall. The south most cut is nearest the ferry dock. The outer harbor (between the breakwall and the Milwaukee River - the area to the left of the breakwall in the picture) is deep enough for the ferry to navigate to any of the other cuts. Interestingly the ferry dock is right next to the Coast Guard station. Also, the south cut is the direct route to South Shore Yacht Club, the second biggest marina in Milwaukee.

So...

We have sailboats.
We have a motor vessel not restricted in his ability to navigate, not in a narrow channel, in fact it sounds unencumbered in any way. Sounds like the sailboats had the right of way.

Now, it would be very unusual for any racecourse to be set up going through the gap. So I suggest what was really going on was the the sailboats were returning after a race to their marina. Generally speaking the ferry pilots are very nice, they throttle down well outside the breakwall (they put up quite a wake when they are up on plane.) So IMHO the sailors were potentially just being rude. However, I would also point out that Lake Michigan can get pretty nasty in 20 to 25 knot winds - particularly if the wind was from the NE to SE - that can put big breakers on (and sometimes over) the breakwall. There have been a few boats that have come to grief on the breakwall including a couple of deaths. So the sailors may have been running for cover.

Another point - the race courses are used every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. They are well known and published every year. The ferry captains know where they are, they go through them a couple of hundred times each season. There are two big races - the Queens Cup (in the Spring) and Louie's Last Regatta (next weekend) that have a lot of boats from Chicago and other non-Milwaukee locations. But it sounds like these were just the ordinary local sailors. So both the ferry and the sailors knew what to expect.

Wasn't there, don't know. Just some local knowledge. (PS if you look at the photo you can see the main entrance to the harbor at the top of the picture. This is used by "lakers" going into the "inner harbor." To get a sense of the size of the vessels that use it the bridge has a vertical clearance of 110 feet.)
 

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islander bahama 24
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Here is another idea that the ferry captain was being nice and also giving passengers a free show whenever they have a race here they cross at least two ferry routes that enter Elliot bay the captains usually slow a little so people can watch the sailboats a little longer. BTW Washington state has the largest publicly owned ferry system in the united states.
 

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formerly 'BoatyardBoy'
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There was most probably a notice to mariners put out that day and days before notifying local traffic of the Regatta.

The ferry was NOT encumbered when it had to "hold station". That was the captain's choice to hold position, if he couldn't hold position he could have did circles or put them in clutch(gear) and just putted around to keep steerage.

If the ferry were to keep up with notice to mariners he should have used an alternate route for the day or afternoon. He was commercial traffic NOT in a TSS or channel so he has no special rights and was a stand on for however many sailboats there were coming out.

Hopefully some of the sailors had the courtesy to hail the ferry on the radio to thank it for holding up for the fleet. I'm sure it would have went a long way and probably appreciated.
 

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The ferry operates on a schedule, does it not, which the Race Committee could have made itself aware of?
 

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Sailboat Reboot
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The ferry operates on a schedule, does it not, which the Race Committee could have made itself aware of?
So do the races. About 75 of them a year. All on the same race course. The race course is outside the breakwall. The ferry chooses to go through it rather than around it (which is very easy and possible) since most of the time there is no conflict between the ferry schedule and the racers. Since the ferry was put in service (about 10 - 15 years ago) this is the first time I have ever heard anything like this. So I think it was just a fluke.

BTW - don't know about now but in the past some of the ferry captains have been sailboat racers LOL

But heck - lets beat this story to death :laugher

Fair winds and following seas :)
 

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Don't know anything about "back east" but have been sailing & fishing in & out of San Francisco bay for many years.

I have never seen any commercial traffic attempt any avoidance moves. I have almost been run down twice, both my fault. At least here, if you get in their way, you will be run down.

I am surprised the ferry captain would wait for the racers. Probably the Ferry company’s lawyers told the skippers not to run down sailboats if they can help it, because it complicates their day.

In real life, it doesn’t matter who the burdened boat/ship is, if you are going to challenge commercial traffic, make sure your will is in order.

Paul T
 

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If we read the examples of vessels "restricted in their ability to maneuver" in rule 3 (laying cable or pipeline, servicing a nav aid, dredging, surveying, underwater operations, replenishment or transfer of persons provisions or cargo while underway, engaged in the launching or recovery of aircraft, engaged in mineclearance, towing such as severely restricts course alterations), we don't see anything close to "ferry which has a schedule to keep but is able to hold in place while giving right-of-way under Rule 18 to sailboats".

So the COLREGS answer is Hell no, the ferry doesn't have right of way, and rightly held in place.

the practical answer, though, is please communicate, answer the damn ferry on the radio, and give courtesy to the give-way vessel when it's warranted and you can do it safely. Yes, that's a "judgement call", which makes for "interesting" situations and discussions on nautical chat boards, even when what the rules say is very clear ;-)
 

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I race Solings on Boston Harbor on a weekly basis. The ferries always give way to us.
Golden Gate Transit has quite a number of ferries on the Bay, most of which are pretty fast & don't draw much water. I have seen them get on the horn any number of times, but didn't see them alter their course. The big danger here is ships & tugs, which are pretty much restricted as to where they can go, ships, especially, & they go FAST, even inside the Bay.

To challenge one is like looking down the barrel of a loaded cannon.

Paul T
 

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Nolatom is right on the money. SaIlboats were stand-on vessels, but it would have been prudent to answer the ferry on the VHF and to let it pass.
 

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Nolatom is right on the money. SaIlboats were stand-on vessels, but it would have been prudent to answer the ferry on the VHF and to let it pass.
How do you figure? In this case the Ferry has the right of way as a scheduled service running in a restricted channel.
 

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There is no provision of the inshore regs for "scheduled service in a restricted channel." A ferry waiting to enter a marked channel doesn't rise to restricted in ability to maneuver (IMHO), so it's down to vessel under power vs vessel under sail.
 
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