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Old 07-06-2009, 21:56   #16
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FWIW,

I wasn't there, so I can't really get a feel for what has happened to John A. But I am puzzled that a moderate size yacht could not evade a 90' coaster, or in the case of Maxingout's friend an even bigger ship. These vessels are not known for being highly maneuverable -- seems like we're always being warned that they take a long way to make a turn, and so we should stay out of their way, etc.

I suppose that the time delay in changing mind set from "lets use the rules of the road to avoid a collision" to "this bastard is trying to run me down and I gotta evade him" is what would get me into trouble. But, once I got the idea, I feel pretty sure I could out maneuver most ships. I know that I have had to take violent evasive action when I simply misinterpreted the intentions of a trawler off the Queensland coast. In that case I was sailing near dead down wind, wing and wing with a poled out genoa, which limits one's options. A crash gybe and quick startup of the engine barely got us out of his way... but that was my own damn fault!

And yet another similar incident: Kiwi friends in a 42' steel Spray replica were run down at night a ways south of New Caledonia. They thought that it was deliberate, but were not positive. Suffered considerable damage, and made repeated calls on the VHF asking the vessel to identify itself, and to stop and render aid. The only reply was "you must be crazy...". Fortunately the damage was all above decks and they were able to motor onwards with a damaged rig, deck, coamings and hull. When they reported the incident to authorities in NZed, they were told that it was not the first such incident in that area.

All in all a disturbing set of happenings!

And finally, in all our years at sea, we've never been "greeted " by light flashes from passing ships. Since our voyages have all been in the Pacific, I guess it must be something to do with the Caribe???

Hopeing that we never encounter such a situation...

Cheers,

Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II lying Manly, Qld Oz
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Old 07-06-2009, 22:14   #17
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Hey John! Before you ask, I have about ten thousand miles of single handing experience...I just couldn't keep a girlfriend! I read your post, and as always, I try to put myself in the captains chair and play "what would I do?" First, I imagine its damn dark, and I'm all alone. A freighter appears and I cant shake him...now what? I radio first, no good. Now I'm really starting to worry. Here's where we differ; Tao and I came to the same next step... I yank out my 12V spotlight (BRIGHT!) and light up my mainsail ( assuming I'm under sail). Now the freighter really perplexes me and turns on IT'S deck lights. What the heck! Last ditch, I direct the spot at their bridge for sec, just flash it back and forth. They continue closing. Either they don't see me, or it's much worse...they do and they have another motive. It's at this point that I bang a 90 deg turn and head away from them. I realize that if they want me, their gonna get me, as I cant match their speed. Pretty terrifying stuff! Understand this: when we post scenarios like this, we all learn vicariously. In hind sight even you might have done something differently. I know for a fact that TaoJones is one of our best and brightest, and that his suggestion is more than valid. No one here knows if it would have helped. No one here knows that freighter's motives. For all we know he might have thought you in distress. Or, he wanted a boat to take home with him, and you were just too damn big, so he threw ya back! Anyway, whats important is that you lived through it and posted so we can learn and debate here. Thanks for the great post, Chris
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Old 07-06-2009, 22:18   #18
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passing at night

I would agree with TaoJones shinning a light at the wheelhouse would be taken as a challenge. That is the reason law enforcement does it. Want them to see you, shine the lights on your sails, then if they come after you go to the foredeck and pull the cover off the 50 caliber!
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Old 07-06-2009, 22:27   #19
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Another good reason to carry guns aboard.

Steve B.
Would a handgun really have helped here?
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Old 07-06-2009, 22:37   #20
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No a handgun would not have helped much, but a Springfield arms M1 or a Armalite M10, both in 30 cal. would.
Yeah I know the debate, and still not sure where I fall on it, but at sea, at night with something like that going down, I would for sure put a round thru his wheelhouse portlight just to show him I can reach out and touch him.
Yeah that sounds like a bunch of macho bravado. And would be illegal to boot. But on the high seas, anything can happen, and I would much rather explain why I took the shot, than have someone wonder what happened to us on a passage.
I agree that shining the light on the mainsail might have been a better choice at first, but from the sounds of things, don't believe it would matter. This one was out to no good, and its just luck and good sense that got John thru it.
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Old 07-06-2009, 22:40   #21
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Originally Posted by Floppel View Post
Would a handgun really have helped here?
Floppel, you obviously don't know your international rules of the road!

And I quote: "article 4.12, subsection C; In the advent of a perceived imminent collision, a hand gun of no less than .22 caliber may be used to warn the offending ship, either by firing against his hull and superstructure or as a last ditch measure, directly into the captain." end quote.

This was a valuable thread...I sincerely hope it doesn't turn into a gun debate. What if I ask "pretty please?"
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Old 07-06-2009, 22:59   #22
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This was a valuable thread...I sincerely hope it doesn't turn into a gun debate. What if I ask "pretty please?"
Ugh, you're right, what was I thinking! I took the bait.

But... what about flares?

Okay, I'll stop.
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Old 08-06-2009, 03:45   #23
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I shouldn’t think that a minor difference of opinion, about a slightly controversial subject, should be cause for indignation or annoyance.

I agree with TaoJones that it’s generally “bad manners” to shine a bright light directly at another vessel’s helm (pilothouse); and, depending upon the range & light intensity, potentially dangerous. While a bright-white light shone in the direction of a vessel on a collision course with yours may attract attention; it can also detract from the watch officer's ability to make out your navigation lights, impair his night vision, and/or disorient him.

In the first instance, I would recommend shining your light on your own sails or superstructure, taking care to not destroy your own night vision. Only in extremis would I* shine my light across the encroaching vessel’s bridge. I believe that a bright enough light, at close enough range to be an unavoidable & unmistakable signal; will likely be intense enough to be somewhat disabling to the other crew.

* Notwithstanding, others (such as Bernard Moitessier) claim that it’s useless to shine a flashlight on your own sails, and recommends that you shine it directly at the encroaching vessel’s helm.
* “A sea vagabond's world” ~ by Bernard Moitessier, William Rodarmor
A sea vagabond's world: boats and ... - Google Book Search

No matter what attracts the attention of the other watch officer, he needs time to recognize what he is looking at, assess the range and alter course (after ensuring he won't putting his vessel in worse danger by doing so).

Remember, his reaction may or may not be instantaneous, and/or appropriate*; so it remains incumbent upon each of us to manoeuver early, and decisively/boldly, to avoid collision.

* I’ve had numerous opportunities, in the Bahamas, to observe Haitian freighters, and a couple of occasions to interact with the crew (went aboard to assist /w repairs). I can tell you that these folk are not typically modern seamen, with any sort of knowledge or training. They seldom even know their position, except in the most general terms.
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Old 08-06-2009, 04:34   #24
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I agree with the shine the light on your sails. and not at the other boat.

But, lets not lose sight here that the boat turned and chased down a sailboat with the plan to ram it. No matter how mad someone may be from "something" there isn't any justification to chase down a boat to ram it.
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Old 08-06-2009, 05:03   #25
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... the boat turned and chased down a sailboat with the plan to ram it. No matter how mad someone may be from "something" there isn't any justification to chase down a boat to ram it.
Irrational and/or inappropriate manoeuvring doesn’t prove willful intent; though very small comfort to John.
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Old 08-06-2009, 05:58   #26
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Gord, are all Haitian freighters built that way? That's a boat ramming bow if I've ever seen one! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess...
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Old 08-06-2009, 06:07   #27
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TaoJones,

I shinned the light in his direction as he approched off my port bow. Several minutes before he was astern of me, or close. Shinning a light in the direction of a passing boat in the night is quite common. commerical boats use scearch lights. Several times I have exchanged light flashes in the night as a greeting to passing boats mostly to return their greeting. That's why I asked for your sailing experience so that I would know the level of your knowledge about nighttime offshore sailinng.

I would have to agree with you that the other boat had a "culture" problem with an agenda. Part of the thread was started to alert others that there are such people g in the Bahamas. I fail to see the connection with something that hapened in California on a highway several years ago. That there are wierd people in the world is a given.

Your statements sound like you are blameing me for shinning my light. You state that if I had not then you think that they would have continued on their way. That is an assumption or a judgement on your part and I take issue with that.

I did not start the thread expecting someone to make misinformed judgements, or to expand their own agenas. Unless you were there you haven't a clue.

Tell you what: lets agree to disagree OK?

fairewinds and calm seas and please continue to have fun.

John A

You shouldn't be so sensitive -- Tao and everyone else here feels just terrible about what happened to you. We are merely trying to figure out what lessons to learn from the incident -- we all put ourselves in your position and wonder what in the world might have been done differently. We've all shined our lights at boats that got too close -- no one's blaming you -- we're simply trying to figure out whether it might have been that that sent the guys into a rage. It's a valid question, which in no way reflects badly on you.
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Old 08-06-2009, 06:29   #28
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Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
FWIW,

I wasn't there, so I can't really get a feel for what has happened to John A. But I am puzzled that a moderate size yacht could not evade a 90' coaster, or in the case of Maxingout's friend an even bigger ship. These vessels are not known for being highly maneuverable -- seems like we're always being warned that they take a long way to make a turn, and so we should stay out of their way, etc.

That puzzles me too. Maybe there was limited maneuverability in a channel? With any decent searoom, I would think that any moderate size yacht -- as long as its under power! -- could easily turn inside any 90' coaster, like a more maneuverable jet fighter can turn inside a less manueverable one in a dogfight. Our boat will just about spin around on her own keel. The speed of the freighter would somewhat narrow the advantage, but the freighter captain couldn't use that speed in tight turns. If it were me -- and assuming I had figured out in time what was going on (that's the big IF), I would try to keep turning inside him until I could maneuver into shallower water where he couldn't follow. The supreme justice in such a situation would be if you could lure him into running aground.

But the real problem is that the situation is so shocking and so unbelievable, that by the time you understand he's actually trying to ram you, it's too late. A very sad story.
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Old 08-06-2009, 07:35   #29
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Gord, are all Haitian freighters built that way? That's a boat ramming bow if I've ever seen one! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess...
I cannot say they're ALL built that way; but it illustrates the tradition Haitian built boat.

Thanks for your friendship.
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Old 08-08-2009, 08:28   #30
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Wow, JohnA, you are really too touchy and sound like you can quickly "fly off the handle." TaoJones as a "Moderator" was suggesting an alternative course of action to help the rest of us try to learn something from JohnA's incident. Alternative actions that may or may not assist the rest of us are extremely valuable and everybody, including myself, can always learn something from the experiences of others. We are not judging your response to the incident, you were the only one "on the scene" and reacting as you thought best.
- - After the incident, we are only discussing how - maybe - different responses might have different results. Your participation in assessing - coolly and with perfect 20/20 hindsight, the incident would be valuable to the rest of us. If you could yourself suggest alternative procedures in this incident and how they may have had different outcomes, it would be helpful to others to avoid a similar incident.
- - I have been almost run down by a commercial charter/party catamaran in the US Virgins in broad daylight. He was under power - I was purely sailing on starboard tack and ahead of the commercial catamaran. He was over taking and flatly refused to alter course 5 degrees to pass downwind of me. Collision was avoided by my turning parallel and using Rule 6, take all measures necessary to avoid collision. He would not alter course in any manner or form. A US Coast Guard Cutter was within a mile of us and after the incident I radio'ed the Cutter and asked if he observed our incident - he said "yes, that guy broke about half a dozen rules." I said "You gonna do anything?" The Coast Guard said, "NO, we are in the anti-drug business, call the VI Marine Police." End of story.
Lesson learned, practice "defensive sailing" and observe and stay out of the way of anybody who is approaching on a possible collision course. Get rid of the notion that COLREGS or any other form of "regulations" are going to be observed by any vessel anywhere. The only viable "rule" is the mythical "rule of tonnage". If the other vessel is bigger and heavier, get out of its way.
Sailboats are run down every year in the Bahamas by island freighters running hot and straight down their normal routes day and night. Stay out of their way and don't anchor within 1.5 nm of any of their traditional routes. The Explorer Charts shows where these routes are.
Police and Coast Guard vessels always shine a spot light directly at a potential target for investigation. I have done many crossings of the Gulfstream at night and get pissed off by the USCG blasting my cockpit with megawatt spot lights. They are looking for suspicious activity in the target boat - me - and need "reasonable cause" to board. Asking them to "turn off the G-D light because you are imperiling my vessel by killing my night vision" doesn't work.
Illuminating your vessel by spreader / deck / spot lights on the sails lets the other vessel see you, judge your size, and determine if you are a police boat. You still have to "say out of their way" which means altering your course 90 or more degrees away. Obviously a vessel seen to be turning away and leaving is not perceived as a threat to smugglers or anybody else.
It is indeed rare that the supposed smugglers were displaying running lights, normally they run dark and silent. Which is another "defensive sailing" subject. In the Caribbean commercial tugs, barges and other vessels from small 3rd world countries run without lights at night. Either they are broken and they never get around to fixing them, or they are told by the owners not to turn them on to save repair/replacement costs. Small local fishing trawlers/skiffs/panga's do not have lights installed and are invisible at night except by radar and even then their radar image is very small and drops out when they enter a wave trough. Maybe a few will have flashlights to illuminate their catch as they bring it aboard. Rule of the road - identify them, then stay out of their way. You can end up "dead right" on the oceans the same as on land.
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