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As a licensed Unlimited 2nd Mate, I find that if a sailboat is in this situation, they should avoid impeding the tug and barge.. Though not qualified as a ship, tug and barges can easily be big enough to qualify as a ship in their length and breadth. That being said, they can't turn or stop like a normal power boat. They may take a half of a mile to come to an stop, and may take an 1/8 of a mile for the bow to respond to rudder commands. So even though the sailboat has "right of way", do you want to risk you and your crews lives, and the vessel because you wanted to prove a point? And said point won't hold up in admiralty court because you didn't show good seaman prudence.

That being said, commercial maritime traffic is the backbone of this nation so let's try not cause harm and keep it going.

A little saying goes on out here, "if in doubt follow Rule 39: rule of gross tonnage." That being if they are bigger than you and you can go around, do so.
 

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"Hey tugboat pushing the gazillion-pound barge overtaking the blue sailboat, are we in your way?"

"Naw, hold what you got shrimp, we'll squeeze by OK."

How about talking to each other?
 

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Hmmm,

The conclusion of the article that the sailboat technically was a stand-on (formerly right of way) vessel seems off for this situation, because San Diego Bay is a small place with a huge lot of traffic; a tug with tow here is very hemmed in and restricted in ability to maneuver. I'd disagree and the analysis didn't seem to tumble to the key phrase "in the bay".

Further, relative to the article, my own opinions were
(1) A key phrase in the original question was "in the bay". For a tug and tow, "in the bay" in San Diego is a confined situation in a frequently congested area in which opportunities for a tug with tow to maneuver are severely restricted. This was not considered adequately in the analysis of whether the tug was reduced in ability to maneuver (RAM). It's a different situation out in open, unobstructed, uncrowded, deep water.
-- Congested ports often also have special local regulations as well as designated traffic lanes off their approaches; movements of larger or sensitive vessels may be under the governance of a vessel traffic service such as in San Francisco or Seattle.
-- The amount of congestion is effectively increased in a place such as San Diego by the presence of numerous "approach me not" vessels such as military ships, cruise ships, ferries, etc.; in the US these have go-slow and no-go zones and in some parts of the world they carry moving exclusion zones with them as they maneuver. And don't forget to smile for the nice Coasties on the escort vessels with their 50-caliber machine guns.

(2) Many recreational anglers do not understand the limits and intents of which fishing vessels are considered reduced in their ability to maneuver and given priority as stand-on vessels. Hint: casting a worm out with your Zebco doesn't confer special status under the rules. This status is reserved for vessels whose ability to maneuver truly is limited, such as vessels working big nets... purse seiners, etc. I really think that the IRPCAS/COLREGs etc. should be clarified so that recreational anglers don't constantly mis-understand this.

(3) While the Rules generally are applied between a pair of vessels at a time, in a busy harbor the skippers must be aware of many other vessels and anticipate developing situations. General prudence and seamanship are always needed. Never follow the rules to the point of irretrievably standing into danger; indeed this is a rules requirement.

(4) Although the rules are generally consistent or similar, skippers need to know which rules apply ... the IRPCAS/COLREGs beyond the demarcation line in the ocean, the Inland Rules, or local or territorial rules in non-federal waterways, or even special "private" cases such as the racing rules.
 

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A very good analysis and sensible comment by BoatyardBoy.

We sail 4,000 nm per year and have over 200 ship interactions. We follow the rules, negotiate passings frequently on the VHF and unless we have a problem are as considerate as we can be to commercial vessels.

If the tug/tow was claiming rights as a RAM (restricted in ability to maneuver) we would get out of his way, if not we would call on the radio but would have a very low threshold for getting out of his way. We often find that a few degree change in our course will avoid all problems, providing you pick them up and make the change at 10 miles plus. AIS has significantly improved our ability to easily handle interactions and make the correct course changes. We transmit on AIS and use the radio so the large course changes I used to make, showing them the other light, is now rarely necessary.

Even when we are not in a narrow channel or inshore shipping lane we are far more considerate when in crowded waters. In open waters we frequently ask ships to give us a wider margin explaining that as a sailboat we need a little more room. However, once a second or third vessel is involved we are less likely to ask for a course change unless we are being squeezed between two big ships. In a situation like that we would talk to both bridges and make sure they were aware of our position. Occasionally we use their MMSI number to 'ring the phone' on their bridge to ensure that they are aware of our position.

The only ships out there that have given us a problem are ones with watch officers with Eastern European accents and the US Navy who like to maintain radio silence and do not transmit on AIS. Not a very sensible precaution when 50 miles from Jacksonville in heavily trafficked waters.

When communications are poor we start the engine for added maneuverability under Rule 2...Good seamanship and get out of the way!

Oh, if you think anyone is watching... http://www.maib.gov.uk/publications/investigation_reports/2013/seagate_and_timor_stream.cfm

Phil
 

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I don't see what is the point. It is obvious that a tugboat with a barge is a vessel “restricted in her ability to maneuver" the same way a trawler with a net out is.

It's just an academic discussion of the " rules".

To your point, the article simply indicates that there are lights and day shapes that a vessel RAM, needs to display to declare that status. However, absent those, Rule 2 comes in to play and points out that the sailboat expecting to be exonerated from any responsibility in an incident, simply because they were " technically" stand on, would not pass the responsibility to avoid collision test. in fact, it states that the sailboat ( besides being crushed) might bear most of the burden.
 

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IMHO the law of tonnage trumps COLREGs. Rules don't matter if you're dead.
Well said, my experience was in and outside of San Francisco Bay for many years, lots & lots of commercial traffic. My observations have been that if you get in their way, you WILL be run down, end of story, regardless of "The RULES".

But, also IMHO the maritime law expert is missing the narrow channel argument. For a tug pushing a barge, I'd interpret San Diego bay as a narrow channel, and give the rights to the tug/barge on the push.
In most harbors that I am familiar with there is little to no room for commercial traffic to "Maneuver". For liability purposes, they might give you 5 blasts on the whistle/horn right before they run them down.

Paul T
 

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If the barge is being pushed ahead as part of a composite unit then it's considered to be just a powerboat according to COLREGS. That being said, since I'm a recreational vessel usually with no particular destination or schedule in mind and he's a commercial vessel trying to get their job done. I'm happy to get out of the way. I don't mind tacking/gybing/heaving-to.
 

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Found this on a sailing quotes page:

"When you are sailing your piece of tupperware across the bay, and the ships are coming from one way and the tugs with barges are coming from another, just remember what a frog looks like in a blender. GET OUT OF THE WAY!" - from Susan-Marie Hagen
 
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Though not qualified as a ship, tug and barges can easily be big enough to qualify as a ship in their length and breadth. That being said, they can't turn or stop like a normal power boat. They may take a half of a mile to come to an stop, and may take an 1/8 of a mile for the bow to respond to rudder commands.
Although not strictly relevant to COLREGS it does relate directly to common sense. See below.

since I'm a recreational vessel usually with no particular destination or schedule in mind and he's a commercial vessel trying to get their job done. I'm happy to get out of the way. I don't mind tacking/gybing/heaving-to.
+1.

Janet and I were coming South from NY Harbor a couple of years ago rounding Cape May planning to anchor in the Cape Henlopen Harbor of Refuge. See https://activecaptain.com/X.php?lat=38.850223&lon=-75.030282&t=n&z=12 . Northbound from well offshore was an ocean-going tug with a long tow. There was lots of time and space so I fire up the radar and tracked him with MARPA. CPA was really close and TCPA was about 45 minutes. I picked up the VHF mic to call when he called me. Golly. I was stand-on both as under sail and on his starboard. The Master was a real gentleman, asked my intentions, and offered to slow down and change course to give way. I told him I was on holiday, in no particular hurry, and respected that he was working for a living; if he would hold course and speed I would be happy to harden up (traveler up, trim jib), slow down (vang on), and take the stern of his tow. There wasn't any other traffic around so we chatted a bit--a nice break for both of us--and both (I think) felt the better for the encounter. We saved him five minutes or so and some fuel, and cost me fifteen minutes at most to anchor down behind the breakwater.

It's good to know the rules and operate within them. There is no substitute for communication and being polite, especially to commercial traffic.
 

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We deal with this kind of situation on nearly every Gulf of Georgia crossing.. that and two shipping lane separation zones leaving our home harbour/bay.

I think it's ludicrous to expect stand-on rights against anything that big, and we've often altered course to 'stay out of their way'.. however I wish that more operators would take the initiative to attempt contact to clarify the nature of an upcoming crossing. Often it became clear in hindsight that our course change was not really necessary.

In 30 plus years of cruising this area it was only last summer that we had our first satisfactory interaction with a tug towing three barges.. we were having a ripping reach in great conditions and had the tug and tow in sight and 'steady' bearing for some time. I tried to radio, and as usual received no response. However Victoria traffic responded to my call, informed me the tug's name and called them on our behalf. Response was immediate and after some observation the skipper came back and said we'd be about a 1/2 mile ahead on cross and that he'd take our stern in any case.

That avoided another half hour of 'should we/shouldn't we' as we observed the closing. What always worries me about taking an avoidance maneuver is that the other guy might do the same and leave us in the same situation again.. good reason to make your intentions clear early on if direct communication isn't happening.

Next time I'll contact Traffic first.. I think hailing "Seaspan Comox" is more effective than "Tug towing barges in Georgia Strait eastbound".
 
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I think it's ludicrous to expect stand-on rights against anything that big, and we've often altered course to 'stay out of their way'.. however I wish that more operators would take the initiative to attempt contact to clarify the nature of an upcoming crossing. Often it became clear in hindsight that our course change was not really necessary.

In 30 plus years of cruising this area it was only last summer that we had our first satisfactory interaction with a tug towing three barges.. we were having a ripping reach in great conditions and had the tug and tow in sight and 'steady' bearing for some time. I tried to radio, and as usual received no response. However Victoria traffic responded to my call, informed me the tug's name and called them on our behalf. Response was immediate and after some observation the skipper came back and said we'd be about a 1/2 mile ahead on cross and that he'd take our stern. That avoided another half hour of 'should we/shouldn't we' as we observed the closing. What always worries me about taking an avoidance maneuver is that the other guy might do the same and leave us in the same situation again.. good reason to make your intentions clear early on if direct communication isn't happening.

Next time I'll contact Traffic first.. I think hailing "Seaspan Comox" is more effective than "Tug towing barges in Georgia Strait eastbound".
Yes, normally if the ship does not maneuver son enough to take avoiding action I will take it but only at the minimum safe distance otherwise I can have the risk of both vessels altering courses and as you say, become again on a collision course much nearer.

When I do not understand what they are doing I call by the radio asking about their intentions. The funniest story was last year where at night a big cruising ship seemed to stay on a collision course for a long time. I did not really understand their course so I call them. It turned out that it was a big cruising ship and they were almost making no way, killing time to arrive at their destination in the morning. That was what was confusing me, I assumed the boat was moving at a cruising speed. They said they were "seeing me" and that I need not to worry and they altered course to pass way ahead of me.

Regards

Paulo
 

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It does not make sense to find out if a tug & barge lacks maneuverability by making your boat into a test-case each time you come across one. Communicate. Stand on if you can keep clear, or give way. We're all in this together, and you'd like them to help you if you needed it sometime.
 

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I don't see what is the point. It is obvious that a tugboat with a barge is a vessel “restricted in her ability to maneuver" the same way a trawler with a net out is.
A trawler with its nets out would have to give way tug and barge that were displaying RAM.

They are not the same (Rule 18)
 

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and offered to slow down and change course to give way. I told him I was on holiday, in no particular hurry, and respected that he was working for a living; if he would hold course and speed I would be happy to harden up (traveler up, trim jib),
It's good to know the rules and operate within them. There is no substitute for communication and being polite, especially to commercial traffic.
That's exactly the way I look at it. 90 percent of the time when I'm on the water I'm there for the fun of it.
If someone is working and has a boss checking his transit time or otherwise has things to think about rather than what is obvious to me, why not make his/her life a little easier.
 

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I would also add that recreational boaters need to be aware of and stay clear of any local Traffic Separation Schemes. Since San Francisco has a large one, it probably didn't matter much to the article. Commercial vessels even if they can navigate outside a scheme can be prohibited from exiting, much like if they were in a narrow channel surrounded by shallow water.

They are still the give way vessel, however a vessel transiting across a TSS always gives way.
 
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