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Old 11-06-2009, 10:57 PM   #1
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We hear sometimes about ships hitting yachts at sea. I have never heard of ships hitting each other, though. Since there are far more ships than yachts at sea, it would seem likely that ships would hit each other much more often than they hit yachts all else being equal.

It would seem that two ships hitting each other at 20 knots or more each would be deadly.

If all my assumptions are true, then there must be something special about yachts that makes them more difficult to see rather than the often suggested theory that they don't keep good watch.

Could it be possible that being small and plastic, that yachts just don't always show up on radar?
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Old 11-07-2009, 12:59 AM   #2
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Our Moderator Nausikaa will be along, he is bound to have good info on the subject.
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Old 11-07-2009, 03:33 AM   #3
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We saw a container ship that had been hit and badly damaged by another ship in Singapore. It was in 1998, when visibility in the Straits were sometimes measured in feet due to the incredible haze from the smoke of the Borneo fires. We were traveling through Indonesia to Malaysia and there were times when we navigated exclusively by GPS plots and depth in order to find a safe anchorage - we literally couldn't see land until we had practically run into it.

SV Watermelon was fiberglass boat, and the first year we owned her we were still in New England, and sailed mostly around Cape Cod. New England is known for sudden and dense fog. When those happened, we slowed down and kept eyes and ears open. Out of the mist one day appeared a powerboat with a fellow on the bow looking intently into the fog and straight at us. He told us that we showed up really well on his radar, so much so that he worried that some much bigger ship was going to hit him. So, no, I don't think that all plastic boats are invisible to radar.

However, sailboats don't have much in the way of lights compared to the big ships on the sea. Some will run with just a masthead tricolor, which might be easier to see in rough seas than deck lights, but if it is the only light on the boat it can be overlooked relatively easily when the watch on the big ship has so many other things to be concerned with.

Big ships nowadays have fewer crew than in the past. Although legally a watch must be kept at all times, I understand that the lone watchkeeper has other duties to perform, and doesn't keep an eagle eye on the radar, and will not necessarily be near the VHF radio. The reason, I am told, that one doesn't necessarily get a response from a ship when hailing them on VHF. Big ships move surprisingly fast, and can be in collision range rather quickly if one isn't paying attention. At night even though it is relatively easy, in good conditions, to see a ship's lights, it can be difficult to determine range and speed until it is quite close. And if it's difficult for us to recognize the direction and speed of a big ship, imagine how difficult this little boat would be to see, particularly if the only light(s) showing are the red, green, and white nav lights.

In bad weather, the small sailboat's radar return can be lost or confused by the sea clutter. Even when we were talking with a tug boat on a crossing over to Nassau in the Bahamas ahead of a weather front, he lost us on his radar and came pretty close until Peter hailed him on VHF again. And he knew we were there, somewhere.

These are some of the reasons that a sailboat had better maintain a good watch, especially at night. If the ship doesn't see you, and isn't apprised of your existence, he can't avoid you - it becomes the sailboat's responsibility to get out of the way.

Murphy is always out there, waiting. and waiting. for something to go wrong.

Fair winds,

J
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Old 11-07-2009, 06:15 AM   #4
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Because the ships are at sea they usually have a longer time period to react to a potential collision course with a larger ship becasue a ship is a bigger radar target and higher out of the water, they tend to change direction by a few degrees to ensure they are not on a collison course. Against a yacht they would not see it until the yacht is about half that distance if they see it and have to react early to allow the ship to manouver out of the way. You just can't put hard a port on and expect an instant reaction with large ships. Takes time Believe me there is many near misses and so a good watch keeping is necessary at all times.

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Old 11-07-2009, 08:28 AM   #5
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Because the ships are at sea they usually have a longer time period to react to a potential collision course with a larger ship becasue a ship is a bigger radar target and higher out of the water, they tend to change direction by a few degrees to ensure they are not on a collison course. Against a yacht they would not see it until the yacht is about half that distance if they see it and have to react early to allow the ship to manouver out of the way. You just can't put hard a port on and expect an instant reaction with large ships. Takes time Believe me there is many near misses and so a good watch keeping is necessary at all times.

Rossmonty
About 3 days out of Brisbane, very late in the afternoon with a 3m swell and 25kts, we picked up a large target on radar coming up fast. What seemed like only a few minutes later we saw a large shape come out of the mist on a heading that would cut us in two.

Called up on VHF (wishing we had AIS) asking for their heading speed and intentions. Immediately they responded - we have been tracking you on radar and now have visual, we can see you are close hauled and battling into it. Stay on your heading, we will change course and pass well clear of your stern - Safmarine out.

Sure enough - this massive cargo carrier changed course, went below us

We were very impressed by their consideration but having been on the bridge of such a vessel in big seas - I have been told by the master and helmsman that it is so easy to miss a target as small as a yacht. And that's with all the bridge crew on station and alert.

Makes you think - fair winds

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Old 11-07-2009, 09:56 AM   #6
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Woe there!

No ship collisions? Would it be that you were right. Unfortunately, collisions between ships are an all to common event and the list is long..... really long.

I suppose the classic collision was that which occured between the two passanger liners, the Italian ANDREA DORIA and the Swedish STOCKHOLM. It was Wednesday, July 25th 1956 at 23:10, a dark and foggy night, when the two great ocean liners collided near Nantucket, Massachusetts. This was the first "RADAR assisted collision". If I remember correctly, the collision was a result of the O.O.W. on the STOCKHOLM making a series of small course alterations which could not easily be detected on the RADAR of the ANDREA DORIA.

The STOCKHOLM ploughed into the side of the Italian vessel which caused water ingress and resulted in a loss of stability. The ANDREA DORIA was holed but floated until 10:09 the following morning when she, after capsizing, slipped below the waves. The STOCKHOLM had received severe bow damage but, with her ice strengthened bow, the damage was restricted. The ship was later repaired and is still plying the waterways of the world as the Portuguese cruise ship ATHENA. At the time of writing, she is in the port of Sirte, Libya.

In all, 46 lives were lost as a result of the collision between the two liners.

Going back a bit further in time, the North Atlantic liner QUEEN MARY was ferrying some 15,000 United States troops to the European war zone. She was close to the coast of Ireland and zig-zagging, as a counter-measure to the u-Boats, with the British light Cruiser CURACOA (4,200 tons) as her escort. Suddenly she found herself on a collision course with the cruiser. The QUEEN MARY, some twenty times the size of CURACOA and steaming at 28.5 knots, sliced the Cruiser in two. She continued on her zig-zag leg, whilst the two halves of the cruiser drifted away from each other. Due to the risk of u-boat attack, (the master's orders were never to stop his ship for any reason whatsoever) the QUEEN MARY could not stop to pick up survivors. The collison took place on the 2nd October 1942 and resulted in 102 men loosing their lives.

Collisons happen in modern times too. Fortunately, they generally are not as severe as the two examples above.

On the 11th May 1972 I lost an old school friend when his ship, ROYSTON GRANGE, a British cargo liner, was destroyed by fire after a collision in the Rio de la Plata with the Chinese owned tanker TIEN CHEE. She was the first British ship to be lost with all hands since World War II.

The report of the enquiry into the disaster concluded that the master and pilot of the TIEN CHEE, in an attempt to get enough water for her deep draught, had probably been navigating too far to the south of the channel and had forced the ROYSTON GRANGE onto the shelf that bordered it. The ship then bounced off the shelf and into the tanker. No blame was attributed to the officers of the ROYSTON GRANGE. The TIEN CHEE, according to the enquiery, should not have entered the channel in the first place in the tidal conditions prevailing at the time. The 7,113 ton ROYSTON GRANGE, with a crew of 61 crew, was also carrying 12 passengers (including 6 women and a 5-year old child), and an Argentinian pilot. They all perished as did 8 crew from the TIEN CHEE.

In the same area, the cruise ship NORWEGIAN DREAM collided with barge at Montevideo 10 Dec 2007 while leaving port. The resulting damage above waterline was reported as "not serious".

There are many more instances of collisions at sea. Recently, for example, the Japanese destroyer KURAMA collided with a a container ship.

However, I think it is fair to say that as RADAR improves and ship simulator training gives ships officers more "experience" in handling ships in difficult situations the number of serious incidences is on the decrease.

The points mentioned in the above posts, i.e. watchkeeping, lookouts, vessel size and visibility of navigation lights are all relevant and important. Unfortunately the lights prescribed for sailing vessels are, with the exception of the stern light, not white and thus are less easily seen than the masthead lights of a motor driven vessel. In my opinion, sailing vessels should be permitted to carry a white strobe light at the masthead. This would make them much more visible to the "big ship navigator".

What has not been mentioned thus far is new technology. The advances in computerised RADAR technology with the possibility to simulate the effect of course changes as well as automatic plotting (APA) all have made substantial contributions to the collision prevention.

AIS is in common usage and I can only endorse the use of this technology by cruisers. Active RADAR reflectors, of which there are several manufacturers, also contribute to greatly increased "visibility".

When I first went to sea RADAR screens (PPI) came in two colours - green or orange. Plotting was done by hand on paper sheets or on a plotting board (try plotting 10 echoes simultaneously!). RADARs took many minutes to warm up, valves and magnatrons failed regularly and we were encumbered by ship masters who wanted to "save" the RADAR for when it is "really needed". Thank God those days are past and we have a plethora of good, dependable technology but, to quote the great storyteller Rudyard Kippling,

"This new ship here is fitted according to the reported increase of knowledge among mankind. Namely, she is cumbered end to end, with bells and trumpets and clock and wires . . . she can call voices out of the air of the waters to con the ship while her crew sleep. But sleep Thou lightly. It has not yet been told to me that the Sea has ceased to be the Sea."

Aye // Stephen
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Old 11-07-2009, 11:32 AM   #7
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The other advance along with ARPA which has reduced the number of collisions is the introduction of traffic separation schemes in areas of heavy traffic and also in the approaches to major ports. I would be willing to suggest that a majority of today's collisions are in pilotage waters, where ships have well manned bridges but are operating in very close proximity to each other. Open water collisions still occur... the ( rather large ie 200,000 ton) sister ships Venpet and Venoil colliding head on while off the South African coast some years ago being a classic of that type.
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Old 11-07-2009, 02:13 PM   #8
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... the ( rather large ie 200,000 ton) sister ships Venpet and Venoil colliding head on while off the South African coast some years ago being a classic of that type.
Indeed, but this was not a case of one vessel not knowing the proximity of the other but, in all probability, of two masters wanting to get close by the other vessel to give them "a wave". It is not the first, nor is it probably the last, time this type of collission will occur.

You are certainly right about separation schemes. They may not actually have reduced the number of collisions but when they do occur they have a lesser impact as the vessels are heading in the same direction - it is a bit like having a central reservation on a motorway.

In congested waters, I am all in favour of sea traffic control. The concept has been in place on the Elbe river in Germany for at least 40 years. A series of RADAR stations are linked to a "control tower" where operators watch every movement of the ships on the river and give them continuous information regarding approaching vessels as well as their position related to the mid-line of the fairway.

I well remember the days when, as officer of the watch (OOW) I was required to call the master when rounding Ushant (Isle d'Ousant) and entering the English Channel. The master would come to the bridge and be given a cup of hot cocao or tea before he plonked himself in his "high chair" and there he would sit, supervising navigation and collision avoidance until the pilot was picked up at the Elbe Lightship some 50 or so hours later. By the time we had passed the Dover Straits and fatigue caught up with him the "old man" was a danger to himself and his ship. Everyone knew this but the master had his duty to perform. Thank God, as I previously mentioned, those days are over and officers are trusted to get on with the job. Much better for the "old man" to relax in his cabin, stay fresh and alert and be called out if needed.

In its infancy, the aircraft pilots to a lot of inputs from the maritime domain but they succeeded in surpassing the maritime field in terms of safety and in particular of adopting workable routines. Nowadays, the shipping industry has learnt much from aircraft procedures and some of the worlds most successful ferry lines operating in congested waters, such as the Stockholm - Helsinki ferries, have successfulluy adopted the concept of pilot and co-pilot whereby one navigates whilst the other handles the ship.

Things are much better these days but that is not to say that there is not substantial room for improvement.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 11-08-2009, 10:56 PM   #9
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having driven those big boats around a few times. I can tell you seeing a sail boat on radar depends on two things. 1. an aluminum mast or something that will reflect a signal. and 2. sea state.

a plastic fantastic with a wood mast, a couple blocks in the rigging and almost no metal in the construction is all but invisible if the seas are higher than the hull is tall in relation to the radar receiver on the ship. you simply show up as intermittent clutter.

the little radar reflectors if placed correctly can give a read good signal but an aluminum mast with a reflector seems to work really well.

this is the same for small power boats to, by the by. you have to have something that gives a strong signal above the wave/swell height.

Without radar a big factor with sail boats getting nailed is the choice of color. white is not a good color to try and see on a white or Grey fog bank. you want a bit more notice fly an orange flag or some other really unnatural bright color. A fully loaded super tanker will come to a safe rest from 20 kts in about 3 miles. you can stop one in an emergency in one mile but will damage the ship. it makes lots of sense to let a big guy know you are there as far out as you can. Hmm and dont get to fond of those stupid ais systems, if the watch is not on the bridge it dont matter what you call you wont get a response.

best idea is just to take the initiative and avoid the big guys no matter.
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Old 11-09-2009, 03:52 AM   #10
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If you have to go back to 1956 or 1972 or even 2003 to find an instance, then I would call that "No Collisions" or close enough. I don't know that there aren't collisions at sea between cargo ships, but I certainly don't hear of them. Perhaps it is such a normal occurrence, that it isn't news anymore, but I don't hear about it happening.

My point was that given the raw number of that type of ship at sea compared to yachts, either yachts must be harder to avoid or there must be many collisions every year between large ships.

It sounds, from reading the above, that yachts really are much harder to pick out on radar than, say, container ships and that helps explain the fact that I hear about more yachts being run over or nearly so than large ships colliding.

If that is the case, then what are the lessons to be taken from this? Certainly, keep your own watch as has been said so often. Pretend you are invisible and get out of the way. But what can be done to improve visibility? I run a radar reflector in my rigging in limited visibility situations. I hope that helps, but I have never been on the other side of that exchange so I don't know.

I do know that shipping in shipping lanes in California tends to be done by very capable and cautious professionals.

So what else can be done to improve the odds?
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Old 11-09-2009, 04:59 AM   #11
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give the big ships a call down in your area and ask how well you show up on radar and visually.

when you are out in the open sea make sure to give the approaching ships a call and dont cross the path till you get a response. make sure they know you are in the area.

lastly dont assume they see you or that you have right of way. the rules say you do but tonnage rules and every small boat sailor needs to keep that firmly in mind.

even a skilled helmsmen has to anticipate every turn and maneuver so giving them the information to base the next move on will keep you and them safer in the long run.
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Old 11-09-2009, 05:06 AM   #12
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Coyote,

You missed my point I think. The examples I took were "text book" examples of collissions. One does not have to go far back at all to find instances of collissions at sea. Indeed, the collission I mentioned with the KURAMA took place only earlier this year.

The last colission I know of happened just last month. Lloyds reported,

Quote:
London, Oct 21 -- A press report, dated today, states: Crude oil tanker Krymsk (62395 gt, built 2003) was in collision with supply AET Endeavour (692 gt, built 1978) about 40 miles south-east of Galvston late yesterday, causing an estimated 18,000 gallons of oil to leak into the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard said. Krymsk began leaking from its fuel tank after the collision. Her crew transferred oil from the damaged tank to another tank and the leak amount was estimated by the master. No injuries were reported and the Coast Guard is investigating. (Note -- According to LMIU AIS at 1111, today, Krymsk was stationary in lat 28 38'7.98N, long 94 32'41.59W, 42.7 nautical miles from Galveston. At 1349, Oct 20, AET Endeavour was stationary in lat 28 37'41.93N, long 94 32'11.41W, 43.3 nautical miles from Galveston.)
Another fairly recent incident happened in Santos, July 23 where, again according to Lloyds, the combined chemical and oil tanker Baltic Champion (23240 gt, built 2003), inbound to Santos for cargo operations, and bulk carrier Amazing Grace (25967 gt, built 1998), outbound from Santos for India with 43,000 tonnes of sugar in bulk, collided at Santos outer roads at around 1400, local time, yesterday. Both vessels sustained hull damage. There were no injuries and no cargo leakage. The incident did not affect the transit of vessels through the Santos Canal. Both vessels anchored at Santos outer roads for the necessary inspections and investigation."

Collissions happen all too frequently but fortunately they are however not as common as groundings. The assumption that yachts are more difficult than, as mentioned in the previous post, a container vessel to see on RADAR is absolutely correct. RADAR works by targets reflecting radio waves to the transmitting vessel. We see thing is much the same way. Light is reflected from objects into our eyes. Is it easier to spot a container ship with colourful boxes, each the size of a small yacht, piled five-high on deck or to see that little white boat amongst the white wavetops?

I am surprised at member twomt who stated

Quote:
dont get to fond of those stupid ais systems, if the watch is not on the bridge it dont matter what you call you wont get a response.
I would claim that AIS is anything but a stupid system nor do I understand the reference to "calling". If stupid occurs anywhere in the formula for collissions it is generally on the part of the bridge watch - or lack of it. AIS is, like the other systems at the disposal of the navigator, only and aid.

To reiterate (and give some new) the good advice:

1. Do not paint your vessel white. Instead choose a more highly visible colour. Also, have a high visibility stripe in your sails.

2. Have a good sized RADAR reflector or better, an active reflector. Yet better is to have both!

3. A RADAR reflector should have a minimum reflection equivilent of 4 sq. m. Note, this is a MINIMUM.

4. Assume that you have not been observed by vessels arround you if they have not taken early, positive action to keep out of your way, assuming that you are the "stand on" vessel after having established that risk for collission exists.

5. At night or in poor visibility, show correct, type-approved navigation lights

Aye // Stephen
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Old 11-09-2009, 05:40 AM   #13
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Quoting Nausikaa

"No ship collisions? Would it be that you were right. Unfortunately, collisions between ships are an all to common an event and the list is long..... really long."

Plenty of collisions take place between ships of all types - While the Lutine Bell is no longer rung in Lloyds . The Lloyds list carries daily reports of mishaps including collisions between ships.

Over the years tremendous improvements have been made in the prevention of ship collisions, by better technology, traffic separation, certification and training etc.... Most collisions involving ships nowadays take place in or close to anchorages and ports, where the ability to maneuver is restricted. Most are of a minor nature and many probably go unreported. Offshore collisions involving ships ploughing into each at 20+ knots is not an everyday occurence.

When it comes to recreational craft, collisions are a daily event - between other similar boats, between fishing boats and sail boats. Sail boats colliding with all sorts of obstacles.

Most sail boats declared as complete losses are those that founder on lee shores, those that run on to reefs, those that attempt crossing river bars at the wrong tide. Many are lost because of human error, be it navigational errors or poor seamanship. The list is endless.
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Old 11-09-2009, 01:53 PM   #14
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Coyote,

You missed my point I think. The examples I took were "text book" examples of collissions. One does not have to go far back at all to find instances of collissions at sea. Indeed, the collission I mentioned with the KURAMA took place only earlier this year.
Yes, I couldn't tell if you used those examples for their fame or because that was kinda all there was.

I saw that Jessica Watson in Pink Lady was hit on her first day. Ships leave Sydney Harbor every few hours day after day and usually don't hit each other. I hear sailors claim that ships often don't keep good watch, but I find that hard to believe. I find it much easier to believe that sailors don't keep good watch (for a variety of reasons, not all their fault) than ships.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nausikaa View Post
To reiterate (and give some new) the good advice:

1. Do not paint your vessel white. Instead choose a more highly visible colour. Also, have a high visibility stripe in your sails.

2. Have a good sized RADAR reflector or better, an active reflector. Yet better is to have both!

3. A RADAR reflector should have a minimum reflection equivilent of 4 sq. m. Note, this is a MINIMUM.

4. Assume that you have not been observed by vessels arround you if they have not taken early, positive action to keep out of your way, assuming that you are the "stand on" vessel after having established that risk for collission exists.

5. At night or in poor visibility, show correct, type-approved navigation lights
That is a good list of recommendations! Thank you for that.

I would never have thought of colored hull or sails as a safety device.
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