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Old 25-07-2009, 05:40   #1
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Big Ship, Little Boat - Stupidity

So we are out for a short sail in our 26 footer.

We are in an east/west channel that is heavily trafficked by large ships. Close passes are not entirely unusual, see photo, and we manages to share the channel pretty well.

So we are headed up the right side of the channel headed (edit) east with wind from the south on starboard tack. A ship is approaching the channelheaded (edit) west, not an unusual situation. I have a friend helming the boat who has never sailed my boat before but is an experienced sailor.

As the ship comes up channel I can "see" the entire port side, which indicates we are clear. We are close hauled so I know that falling off would be bad and a tack could be in order and I should be prepared.

I get a little fixated on the ship and am not really paying attention to the windex and the helm. As the ship approaches I can see we are only going to pass about 3 boat lengths up the port side, it's a bit close for me so I call for a tack.

What I didn't realize is that my friend had been pinching and we had pretty much lost too much boat speed to complete the tack. As we end up head to wind and boat speed zero I realize we are in trouble. I hit the happy button, the donk fires up and I floor it. However at this point the wind has caught the genny and the nose is rapidly bearing to port. In 3 seconds we are headed right at the side of the ship (north heading) 2 boat lengths away and the helm is hard to starboard. Basically helm and motor trying to offset the wind blowing the genny down, holding a north heading. There is no way we are going to turn back to starboard into the wind.

No choice left I yell for hard to port, and blow the genny sheet. The bow continues to head down, The boom crash gybes, the genny wraps forward around the forestay, flogging like hell, but I realize we are going to make it.

We end up headed (edit) west, parallel to the ship one boat length abeam - about 26 feet. I look up and on the ship rail are 5 sailors 25 feet about us, laughing their asses off and clapping. I could have passed them a beer!

We continue abeam for a bit and then continue the port turn head to wind. The genny is still flogging and the sheets are wrapped. I end up on the bow and have to derig the sheets and manually unwrap them.

I kcicked myself for a while after that one.

Lessons learned?

- Upwind of a ship? Tack off early and give plenty of room. No need to pass that close.
- In a tight situation owner/skipper should be on the helm.
- Make it clear who calls the shots. We had no problems but with 2 "skippers" on board the communication and decision making could have been a problem

- You basically can't man handle the genny around the foreestay in any kind of wind. After the gybe, because the sheets were wrapped around the genny about 6 feet off the deck, we couldn't furl it, we couldn't drop it and it was drawing air. In a tighter situation we could have been in further trouble because the engine coudn't drive the bow where we wanted it which limited our choice of headings - i.e. we couldn't get above a broad reach.

After the gybe we were on a broad reach port tack. Had the wind been stronger we still could have been blown bow down (to the north) and still been closing on the ship.

Luck expended / Experience gained...
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Old 25-07-2009, 05:46   #2
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Hey, you were a sailboat on starboard tack....... just tell the freighter to get out of your way!

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Old 25-07-2009, 07:16   #3
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I would have filled my shorts, nice photos though....Allan
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Old 25-07-2009, 07:33   #4
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Oh, I should have pointed out. The photos aren't from the day.

Those are just normal and "typical" passing photos from other days.

We were even closer on the day described. I still get a little shiver about it...
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Old 25-07-2009, 10:01   #5
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But you were clearly the 'Give way' vessel as the ship has to keep to the deep channel - you should always alter course in good time to give you adequate clearance.
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Old 25-07-2009, 15:03   #6
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Aloha Ex,
You survived! Whoopee!
It really is hard to teach some folks that pinching sometimes be dangerous. Your crewmember probably knows that now.
Kind regards,
JohnL
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Old 26-07-2009, 05:17   #7
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Dan thanks for the story. I'm sure we all have sailed to close to a freigher because we have become too sure of ourselves. A coupke of weeks ago I crossed too close in front of one and had to fire the engine and get out of the way. Didn't matter really that I was the stand on boat as we try to follow the "Big Boat" rule.
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Old 26-07-2009, 05:36   #8
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One definition of sailing is "Hours of boredom interrupted by moments of shear terror." Sounds like it fits.

We're glad vessel and crew are OK.

George
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Old 26-07-2009, 09:44   #9
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Many years ago, my mom had a Drascombe Driver. It had an inboard diesel mounted midships on the deck with a plywood box cover over it. The box had a few slots for the throttle and gear shift to poke through.

So there we were, my other half and I, making out on top of the engine box, with the engine running as there was very little wind, mid channel in the middle of Britains largest oil port. Mainly obscured by the empty main and the jib, no one could see us and, more importantly, we couldnt see anyone else.

What we hadnt realised in the passion of the moment was the box had moved and pushed the gear shift into neutral and we had made no headway whilst crossing the channel.

We were only aware of the problem when we heard the horn of the pilot boat that was guiding a super tanker into port about 800 yards away.
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Old 26-07-2009, 09:47   #10
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I also got caught out in a ski lift in Austria and was still adjusting my clothing when we reached the top and had to jump out quick.

Im a good girl now.
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Old 26-07-2009, 09:59   #11
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Dan,
I cant figure out how you are heading West with the wind from the South and are on a starboard tack? Wouldn't you be on a port tack?

I'm glad you are okay!

I see yachts getting in the way of ships all the time on the SF Bay. The primary problem is that the ships are traveling typically three times faster than the sail boats, (5 knots versus 15 knots plus) yet the ships are so large they appear to be be going relatively slow. A ships speed can be very deceptive. Their bow wakes give some indication of speed...that's about it unless you have them with AIS.
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Old 26-07-2009, 16:27   #12
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It's is times like these that I actually miss my power boat. :-)

George
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Old 27-07-2009, 04:21   #13
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David is right - I got my east and west mixed up...

We were initially headed east and the ship was headed west - No wonder I was in trouble - LOL...
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Old 27-07-2009, 07:48   #14
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i had a recent bridge experience where i was going in circles waiting for the tender to wake up .. and he finally did. the tide and wind was running into the bridge .. i had slowed down to a crawl and did a final turn away from the bridge but was surprised when the wind and tide caught the bow and i realized there could be a big problem (since there was now a sand bar straight ahead). i then gunned the motor in reverse to turn the boat using the prop walk and jammed it into forward to clear the bridge by a boat length. i'm sure it felt a lot worse than it looked.
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Old 01-08-2009, 19:06   #15
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Great story, I had a similar situation but it was with a cliff. At least you don't almost hit inanimate objects.
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