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Old 01-11-2006, 10:43 PM   #1
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 4
Default AIS, Valhalla's Near Miss and Colregs

Hi all:

I read the thread on the installation of AIS on Valhalla. Nice.

As a discussion point I though the ColRegs said that if your vessel is under 20 meters you basically don't exist and you have no rights. Thus you stay out of the way anything greater than 20 meters.


[}: )]

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Old 01-11-2006, 11:09 PM   #2
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That's not true. The problem is that when a large ship is forced to a course due to its draft, a smaller boat, whether sail or power, must get out of its way. A sailboat also has the obligation to keep clear of a fishing vessel that is trawling or otherwise unable to keep out of the way of other vessels.

ColRegs are common sense regulations - everybody is required to do whatever is necessary to avoid collision. The way I see it, codifying it into regulations is for the benefit of all, except maybe lawyers, because it doesn't pit "big guy" against "little guy" but rather recognizes that there are unique situations where one vessel has less ability to avoid collision than another.

Several years ago there was a big news story in New England about a fishing vessel being "run over" by a tug towing a barge. The first reports made it sound as if the tug was at fault, running over a fishing boat that was busily engaged in fishing. When the inquiry was held, it turned out that there was nobody at the helm of the fishing boat which was motoring on a collision course with the tug. The tug made every effort to get its attention, including hailing on the VHF, sounding horns, flashing high-powered searchlights at the boat, and finally, when it became clear that no response was forthcoming, the tugboat captain stopped the tug to let the towing cable drop below the water in the hope that the fishing vessel's course would bring it between tug and barge. As it turned out, since there was nobody on the helm of the fishing boat (comment later on this), the boat did not avoid the barge, but ran smack dab into it!

It was a terrible tragedy that could have been avoided had there been somebody on watch on the fishing boat. Clearly, they had set their autopilot for home and all gone to sleep. And they all died as a result.

That tug had no options. It takes miles to slow down and stop a tug with barge in tow. It takes miles for it to change course. It can't speed up very much, and certainly not quickly enough to make a difference. If you're the sailboat, powerboat, fishing boat, or freighter, you are burdened with the responsibility of avoiding collision. Pure and simple common sense. The guy who has most maneuverability has greatest responsibility for not putting himself, and others, into peril.

On our crossing from Ecuador to Easter Island, about 3 days out from Ecuador, I was on watch late at night when I saw a fishing vessel motoring on a collision course with us. No amount of hailing, shining a light on our sails, anything, made it change course one degree. I had to tack to get out of its way. I was told by our friend, a former shrimpboat crew and skipper, to NEVER trust a fishing boat to know the rules of the road, to get out of your way, or for there even to be someone on the helm. Rules are good, but people often don't follow them!

Be careful out there, but enjoy yourself nonetheless.

In 1986 we went cruising for a few years. After 20 years and 50+ countries and several oceans, we are STILL "cruising for a few years".

MV WATERMELON (New) | Cruiser's Dictionary, free ebook

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Old 01-12-2006, 01:11 AM   #3
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 178

To further illustrate Jeanne's point, I would say that on fishing vessels from perhaps 40' to 70' which we came in close contact with in the North Sea and English Channel, a majority showed no one at the helm. These are simply skipper and crew (or skipper only) vessels and fishing with hydraulic and/or electric accessories plus nets or trawls simply takes multiple hands at times. In almost all cases, the vessels I'm talking about were underway, motoring on a set course that was dictated by the sea or the lay of the net, not based on the course or presence of any other vessel.

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