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Old 03-07-2007, 02:19 PM   #1
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I have just finished reading an article by Clark Beek and published in "Sailing"

It relates his experience of being run down by a freighter off the Brazilian coast - a 40' ketch with himself and two crew. The freighter had been seen by the crewmember on watch but it suddenly changed course towards them - at 20 knots. Luckily, they weren't hit head-on but a glancing blow near the freighter's bow. The bow wake was horrendious and the mast snagged the freighter's anchor hanging in it's hawser. "The damage was extensive" but luckily there were no injuries and they managed to limp into a coastal achorage some twelve miles away. Later, after identification, the shipping company agreed to pay for the repairs to the yacht.

This is the basis of the article but there are a few snippets of the article below that will generate some discussion. There is NO blame placed here but a few thought-provoking issues - a little like the "seatbelt" debate. These are only the snippets which will generate the discussion HERE - we can all learn from this.

With acknowlegement to Clark Beek (who has my admiration and did everything right) and "Sailing".

"The wind was light, the weather was calm and clear the coffee was on, and we were settling in for the night". (We've all been there)

After the freighter changes course, Ian the crewmember shouts for Clark to come on deck - quickly. Clark immediately returns below to call the ship on VHF - no response. He goes back on deck and the ship is now really close.

"Ian and I tried to start the engine but panic was setting in and we kept stumbling over each other, stuttering, and never even got the key into the ignition. Everything was set up for passagemaking - preventers set, propeller shaft and wheel locked, windvane engaged - and there was too much claptrap to untangle before we could tack the boat under sail.

..............

..........Ian and I screamed for Hillary, but she had the bad manners to be tied into her bunk and struggled to untie the lee cloth ......... "

Food for thought?

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Old 03-07-2007, 05:49 PM   #2
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About 4 years ago I had an unpleasant encounter with a Russian Cargo Ship just outside Long Beach Harbor during a day sail. I had a crew of mostly women sitting out on the deck in bikinis. We were on a nice port beam reach doing 6 or 7 knots. As they often do, this large ship passed about 100 yards behind us looking like it was headed inside the break water. After it passed it suddenly turned and started coming up behind us on our starboard side. It was doing about 15 knots and overtaking us while also riding us up into the wind. It partially overtook us in minutes and rode us high enough to luff the sails. At this point it was within 100 feet of our starboard side and we were approximately mid-ship of this huge wall of steel. The ship suddenly came to a complete stop and dropped it's anchor as we were trying to furl the sails and start the engine. The side of the ship is now 50 feet from us, the wind is blowing us into the ship, and most of the crew (10-15) of Russians are leaning over the rails looking at the girls in bikinis. In the meantime, we just barely got the engine started as we passed within 20 feet of the turning props of the ship! My heart was pounding so fast and everyone was so freaked-out by this that we took the boat back to the slip. There is no doubt in my mind that the captain of the ship did this on purpose to give his crew the thrill of watching girls in bikinis run about to drop sails.

My point wrt the topic, is that you never know the mind set of the person at the helm of the ship, nor do you know if there is even anyone at the helm...also, make sure you don't have women in bikinis around Russian Ships
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Old 03-07-2007, 09:02 PM   #3
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For a couple like us, "Cruiser Wanna-Be's", land-locked and land lubbers, the topic certainly is educational. This topic relates to many other recent topics.

In the above posts, its daylight, and somebody on the sail boat is aware of a ship in the area, their surroundings, "area of operation" or "area of influence". Good situations turned very dangerous, very suddenly.

Early in our thought process of going cruising, we determined that we want a sailing vessel with auxiliary diesel power and propulsion. We started considering the type and size of our future sailing vessel. We are considering the crew size. We know it is her and I. We discussed "Watches", and what to do at night, or when rest is needed. Can we provide 24 hour awareness? Do we want to? Should we? Do we want to do it by ourselves?

I think vessel size and type, crew size, sail plan, destinations, speed, and watches are very inter-related in determining the right mix.

Upon study and consideration, I determined early on, there will be a 24 hour watch, on my vessel under sail or power. It is the only thing that makes any good sense.

At solid anchor in shallow draft, (out of ships passage) tide considered, or in slip, in fair weather, forecast considered, maybe I can reasonably dismiss the 24 hour watch requirement.

Am I to strict or am I prudent?

Typically I ask questions of my first mate this way: "Am I to strict, or What?"

Her answer always is, "You are OR WHAT!"

I do not want to risk my passengers, crew, self, vessel or such an incident by allowing everybody off watch, for hours at a time; or take responsibility for being short sighted or stupid.
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Old 03-07-2007, 09:18 PM   #4
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I came across an indian freighter inside the Great Barrier Reef which I think was playing the 'lets-frighten-the-guy-on-the-yacht' game. I was sailing north along the coast of the Cape York Peninsula and went below to make coffee. My father was on the helm. When I turned around to ask a question and looked up into the cockpit all I could see was a great, rusty, steel cliff face. The freighter, with half a dozen smiling crew on the forward rail, passed within 50 metres of us.

Some of the channels in that part of the world are quite narrow and the freighter was doing nothing wrong, except perhaps that her master did not sound an alert.

However, I was certainly doing the wrong thing by only keeping watch ahead of our vessel. In my defence, it was many years ago and I was on my first trip in a bigger yacht away from my home port. The weather was fine and the southeasterly trade winds were blowing steady at about 20 knots. It taught me a lesson I will never forget and that is to maintain a 360 degree watch.

The astounding thing is that an 8000 ton ship travelling at 15-20 knots, could sneak up on a vessel weighing 18 tons, and making way under sail alone, without being heard.

About Lighthouse's post, I can only say I empathise with the crew on the yacht and understand how easily it can occur. Theorists will criticise, but those who have been there will experience an involuntary shudder at the memory of what may have been....It will never happen to me again!

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Old 03-07-2007, 11:46 PM   #5
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However, I was certainly doing the wrong thing by only keeping watch ahead of our vessel.
Sailing out of San Diego about a year ago approximately 10 miles outside of the harbor, we were sitting in the cockpit looking forward at the sails and instruments when we suddenly heard a rumbling sound coming from behind. When we turned to look, we saw this 65+ ft cabin cruiser doing 20-25 knots coming straight up our stern. We could see the skipper running from the lower deck to the fly bridge to turn the vessel off the collision course. He just made it clear of our stern and threw an enormous wake as he went screaming past us looking down at us from the fly bridge as though we were in the way of his course!

If he hadn't of correct when he did, Lori and I would surely have been killed by that idiot.
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Old 03-08-2007, 04:46 AM   #6
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This is a topic I could discuss for ever having been on both sides of the fence.

As a ship's officer I must point out that there are ships and there are ships. Even though the IMO tries to promote safety on all vessels there is still a great difference between ships owned and operated by traditional shipping companies of traditional maritime nations and those of the fly-by-night, cowboy outfits we see in many parts of the world. Having said that, it is also fair to point out that yachts can be very difficult to see from the bridge of a ship. The worst possible conditions are generated in winds of about force 7 upwards when seas are breaking. A small white yacht is almost impossible to see under such conditions. My advice to yachtsmen is to make yourselves more visible. Use tan coloured sails. Have the storm jib made in high visibility orange. Ensure navigation lights fullfil the requirements of the colision rules or better. Use radar reflectors or transponders. AIS transmitters are already on the market for smaller vessels - buy one and use it. Keep a lookout - astern as well as ahead. Remember also the limitations of manoeverability of big ships. The old Queen Mary took 22 NM to stop from full speed! Motor ships are better of course but they too have their limitations.

I have found that most ships officers from "responsible" countries and shipping companies will go out of their way to assist yachtsmen. They will relay radio messages; they will give you cancelled charts and allow you to study their ship's navigational publications; they will let you use the showers on board etc. etc. If there is one thing lacking about most ships officer from these "responsible" countries and companies it is there understanding of the wind and sailing techniques. Ships officers are not taught how to sail these days.

As a coast gueard officer I have seen ships in bad condition with inferior crews. We try to stop these and have most successfully kept them out of our waters. Not all countries do this. But. also as a coast guard officer, I have seen far more examples of irresponsible yachtsmen putting to sea in craft that should not be allowed outside a lake. Many people (obviously not members of this form) seem to think that all they have to do is spend money, get all the latest gadgets and off they go without apropriate training, experience and knowledge. I once was involved in the rescue of a huge, new, Dutch built, steel motor yacht which had "navigated its way into a groups of rocks and skerries off the west coast of Sweden. The owner had bought the boat in Holland and was taking it home to Norway using an orienteering compass. He had no knowledge of navigation or chartwork and thought that deviation was some kind of wierd sex!

As a yachtsman I try to keep NAUSIKAA as ship shape and safe as possble. Having said that, I still do not have tan sails and the hull is painted dark blue. Not the best colour combination - but it looks good. I try to compensate with radar reflector and transponder. I keep a good lookout and have excellent navigation lights.

The bottom line is that at sea it is YOU who is primarilly responsible for your safety. Of course we should expect other people to follow the rules but many don't. The only thing we can do is to make ourselves more easily seen and try to show some understanding for the other guy. This in no way excuses un-seamanlike behavior but it may help us stay alive.

Aye

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Old 03-08-2007, 08:02 AM   #7
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I wish to deviate slightly from the original subject to address a concern voiced by Stephen of Nausikaa. I am looking to replace my nav lights (I don't like going aloft to change a bulb on the tricolour) with rail mounted LED's. Several chandleries have offered me LED's at a bargain price; less than AU$30 per unit, or $100 approx for the three... red, green and white.

They are clearly insufficiently bright to do anything other than give the grossly tightfisted, a feeling of some comfort. The approved units are in the region of $220 each. They are sufficiently bright that they will be seen at a distance, yet they burn far less electricity than incandescent lights.

Not being seen is the single most significant contribution any sailor can make to being involved in a prang on the water.

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Old 03-08-2007, 12:25 PM   #8
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Another one of my stories.

We were sailing up the Caribbean chain, anxious to make St. Martin for Christmas. From Venezuela, it's a hard beat until past St. Lucia when you turn onto a broad reach towards Martinique. We had just crossed the channel and were in the lee of Martinique sailing very well at over 6.5 knots, the night was clear and gorgeous, Peter was off watch and I was letting the wind vane steer as I just enjoyed the night. I heard a one-way conversation on the VHF, an American man sounding a bit "assertive" say "let me remind you that you are the burdened vessel." ?! My ears perked up, curious to find out who/what/where. Shortly thereafter a humongous cruise ship passed us. I could figure that the sailboat I had heard was ahead of us on the same course, so when Peter got up to take his watch, I warned him to watch out for the sailboat that "played chicken with a cruise ship," and I went below.

When I got up as the sun rose, Peter sold me that I was right to warn him about that sailboat. He said that he overheard an even more worrisome conversation. It started with a man speaking excellent, though accented, English: "it's about time you turned your navigation lights on," apparently from a commercial ship. "I only turned them on because I thought you were going to run me over!" came the American's reply.

The ship, which turned out to be a freighter, came back with "let me make a suggestion. This is a very busy area (Fort de France) with many big ships coming and going. You must show your lights so that they can see you." A reasonable man would have thanked the captain, perhaps apologized. But not this fellow. His response was on the order of "I don't have enough power to run with my lights on all the time."

They walk among us.
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Old 03-08-2007, 03:56 PM   #9
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They walk among us.
Sounds like a Darwin Award nominee.
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Old 03-08-2007, 07:31 PM   #10
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Aye Aye on the Darwin nomination for the Arrogant Idiot.

I read this topic with great interest. The insight and experiences shared by those with extensive experience and from different perspectives is most educational and helpful.

I am finding answers here that apply to my previous post of "Real Risks and Dangers at Sea".

Everybody knows that I am studying to become a cruiser. What you don't know is that I have been on a few large ships, container ships, and Roll-On Roll-Off (RO-RO), amongst others. Everything is on a bigger scale, than from a small boat. E.g. time, distance, turning, accelerating, stopping, draft, displacement, freeboard, etc.

I'll never forget the perspective, and my amazement, the first time on the bridge of a freighter. WOW! Watching Conex Containers, boxes the size of semi-trailers, disappearing as tiny specs, someplace down in the hold. I know what one of those weighs. I hauled them on the highways, and that it takes skill to maneuver just one safely. A ship carries several thousands of those. I am so thankful I had the enlightening opportunities and experiences.

I think it should be mandatory for everybody that gets an automobile license to get a familiarization ride in a semi-truck first. It would provide valuable insight, appreciation, understanding and respect, and safer drivers. Perhaps something similar would be good for small craft that sail amongst much larger vessels. From the bridge, the Captain and the Helmsman have blind areas, for long distances in every direction. Even if they want to change speed or course, it takes time and distance.

< Edited for spelling and added>

The Arrogant Idiot, running without lights, (clearly remiss of his own responsibilies), making an issue of whos' responsibility it is to alter course, failing to consider his risk of becoming fish food and his vessel becoming debris.
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Old 03-08-2007, 11:58 PM   #11
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Since our sailing was so much more comfortable once we turned the corner at Martinique, and with no real work to do as Watermelon pretty much sailed herself, I had the luxury of being outraged by this fellow's arrogance. I wonder how many people behave as I do when we're far from land. That's when I can yell at foolish people, say naughty things to the air, and generally vent my spleen. I remember saying to the wind, "why couldn't you speak with some strange accent? Why do you have to sound SO much like an American? You're an embarrassment!"

There's nobody on the water with us to decide that this lady is nuts and ought to be restrained! (Peter gave up long ago!)

My last entry on this topic, and it's a sad story. In 1996 we were in the States for a rather long visit, and there was a big news story about a fishing trawler being hit by a tug and barge in the Atlantic off Massachusetts. The first news report had the father of one of the men saying something to the effect "they were probably hauling their nets and didn't see the tug. They are professionals and it (couldn't be their fault)" At the Coast Guard inquiry the tugboat captain and crew told their story - they saw the fishing boat motoring straight for them. They tried hailing them on the radio, then they flashed their lights, sounded their horn, did everything they could to get the crews' attention, to no avail. By then the fishing boat was sure to either run into the tow line or the barge, so as a last ditch effort the tugboat captain stopped the tug to let the towing cable fall into the water. Unfortunately the fishing boat hit the barge at full speed and rolled over. The tug's crew called for Coast Guard help and secured the upside-down fishing boat to the barge.

The entire fishing crew was inside the boat, with its doors closed, and were all dead when the CG finally broke into the boat.

It was clear that they had finished hauling their nets and then set the boat on autopilot and they'd all gone to sleep. How sad. Even sadder, in my opinion, is the furor made that the tugboat could have done something more to avoid the accident. Not a single newsperson, not one story, explained that it was impossible for the tugboat to stop or even to take evasive measures to avoid the fishing boat. So this tragedy did not even serve as a lesson to others about the proper conduct of a boat and its crew.
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Old 03-09-2007, 09:33 AM   #12
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Jeanne P,

I read it over and over. Later I came back and read it again. And again.

Out of context, "big news story about a fishing trawler being hit by a tug ", is in error.

In actuality the trawler was asleep and ramed into a barge in tow, with the tug desperately trying to prevent it.

Likely we can assume the tug and the trawler crews were both professionals.

Maybe, we can assume the trawler had done this before, all hands in the rack, after an exhausting fish run, on auto-pilot, NO WATCH, as Standard Operating Procedure.

As the whole story unraveled, the tug did everything they could to prevent the tradgedy. The trawler crew (perhaps and likely exhausted) (assumed) was asleep. The trawler Captain and/or crew made a very bad decison and choice, which cost them their lives, before their time, and more, family loss, grief, income, livelihood,...., a boat....

It is most unfortunate that blame was directed at the tug. It is somewhat understandable for the grieving families to act in anger and frustration at their loss, striking out at anybody or anything, looking for reason, placing blame.

In this case the media did not help the situation. Despite all else, their goal is to attract and retain viewers or readers and sell advertising to paying sponsors. More circulation or viewers or clicks on a computer = more Buck$$$!

Concerning:

" So this tragedy did not even serve as a lesson to others about the proper conduct of a boat and its crew. "

Contrare. I got it!

~ ~ ~

An additional comment to my last post concerning the Conex Conatiners on a Freighter being lowered into the hold, disappearing as tiny specs. That is as viewed from the bridge. Those containers are on board. The containers are about the size of most private cruising yachts. If a yacht is in the blind area around a ship, the bridge can not see you visually. If one is far enough away to be seen, you look like very tiny dot.
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Old 03-10-2007, 04:33 AM   #13
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@ AUZEE

David,

I changed my masthaed tricolour and anchor light for Lopolight's LEDs. These are approved by the Danish Directorate of Shipping and, here is the best part, have a lifespan of over 50,000 hours. They also draw far less current than incandescent lamps.

I hate going up the mast too and would not even consider doing it at night when a bulb fails. I think LEDs are GREAT!

Aye

Stephen

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Old 03-10-2007, 04:13 PM   #14
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@ AUZEE

David,

I changed my masthaed tricolour and anchor light for Lopolight's LEDs. These are approved by the Danish Directorate of Shipping and, here is the best part, have a lifespan of over 50,000 hours. They also draw far less current than incandescent lamps.

I hate going up the mast too and would not even consider doing it at night when a bulb fails. I think LEDs are GREAT!

Aye

Stephen

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My observations here in the BVIs is that LEDs when new are fine: however, they seem to dim or fade with age....anyone else notice this? Tony
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