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Old 08-09-2006, 11:21   #1
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Darwin in action...

It's only something I watched happen, but instructional all the same. I wish I had my camera ready, but we were too busy trying not to get sucked into the developing situation...

We were coming back into San Francisco Bay on Labor Day after spending the weekend up the coast. The the first real excitement of the trip actually came as we were approaching the Golden Gate bridge. There was a lot of traffic on the water, a tug pulling a dump scow going out, a huge container ship on the way in. It was late afternoon and the wind was blowing 15 to 25 kts and the sailboarders and kitesailers were out in force like a swarm of angry hornets buzzing back and forth. The pilot of the containership is leaning on his horn again and again to try and get these guys to give him a clear path in. His horn seems to be totally ignored.

Then is a call on the radio that a kite-sailor is down in the channel, under the bridge. This is right outside the Coast Guard station so they are on their way in a hurry. The pilot of the containership is only a few hundred yards out and is trying to figure out which side of the channel he should take.

A few moments later the tugboat captain is on the radio announcing that he has a kitesailing kite tangled on the scow he has in tow. Sure enough, there it was, a pile of blue cloth tangled on the barge.

Apparently this hot-shot kitesailor got a little too close (OK, actually a LOT too close) to the dumpscow and tangled his rig and was left swimming in the shipping channel. Seems like everybody came out OK--this time. But many of these guys are really nuts. They seem to enjoy playing chicken with the big ships. It is only a matter of time before one of them gets sucked under one. They have to give the harbor pilots nightmares.

My wife felt that they should not be allowed to play in the channel. Her analogy seems to make sense: "You don't allow kids to skateboard on the freeway, do you?" Certainly the smallest gear failure or sudden lack of wind leaves these guys sitting ducks for the big ships. My libertarian soul hates the idea of more rules, and I wouldn't feel a bit of sympathy for these guys if they get pureed by one of these large ships. There is certainly precedent for such rules, there is at least one channel here in the bay that ALL recreational vessels are totally banned from, even to cross.
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Old 08-09-2006, 12:12   #2
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Agreed. I think *everyone* should keep out of the channel unless they are actively navigating it. It is a lot like a freeway. I frequenly see weekender guys out fishing in the channel and they expect everyone to go around them - including pushing deeper draft vessels off to the fringes of the channel.

With all the other regulations out there, I'm surpised we don't have something useful like restrictions on blocking channels.
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Old 08-09-2006, 13:31   #3
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There was a very close call here, a few years back now, when a commercial scolloping vessel got stuck up on the mud flats. Another commercial boat was towing him off, using a good 100m or more of steel wire tow cable. The towing vessel would back up in the channel and take a run, the cable would lift fromt he water and go "steel" tight and they would move the grounded vessel another few feet closer to the channel. Well while this was going on, a small powerboatie took a short cut across the shallow area and went right between the two vessels. OK, so no one was carrying flags or markers or what ever to suggest a towing operation, the fizz boater would never have known what anything like that meant anyway, but it was reasonably obviouse what was happening. Plus, the fizzboat should have been in the navagable channel.
Anyway's, the towing vessel was taking another run and the fizz boat shot right over top of the cable as it was coming up through the water. He cleared it and carried on and probably to this day, never new how close he was to having his boat sliced in half. The cable cleared the water right behind the boat and went steel tight. It was a miricle even the outboard cleared it. But at thatr speed, it was only a second in difference that could have meant a very different deadly outcome.
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Old 08-09-2006, 15:06   #4
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Sounds like the local USCG or bay constable needs to get more creative. Let's call the kite a 'vessel' and write up the operator for reckless operation, and a civil charge of reckless endangerment, and a criminal assault charge, for committing a physical action that caused someone else (the barge operator) to be in fear of the results.

I'm sure some liberal juries could dismiss it all, but throwing a couple of books at the idiots who play with commercial traffic, could force them to spend enough money on lawyers alone so that word would get around: Leave the big boys alone!

If you can't reach their brains, reach their wallets.
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Old 08-09-2006, 16:47   #5
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hi Great Ketch: I was out on the bay Sunday and Monday as well.Did you see a yellow J105 with a reef tucked in. If you did that was me and mine. lots of ship traffic and some real idiots out there. I agree with you on the wind and kite surfers being chopped up for bait. But it is Kalifornia and you know that the family of the surfers would sue and win big $$$. Seems to me Hello is right in fining those guys for such acts. I think some classes on right of way are in order.
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Old 08-09-2006, 18:25   #6
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There the realities of piloting a vessel in tow. There are impossible expectaions that can be held by persons encoutering a large towed barge. They don't turn on a dime and most often not in less than a half hour. Most barge accidents happen 1/2 hour before they really happen. The decision is made and the outcome determined based on a long time ago.

Just yesteday, I was caught on the inside of a curve with a barge coming from behind. I could not go to the outside and I knew the barge would cut the inside corner tight. I had shoals outside the green mark and the admiral was worried. I knew I was OK on the very far green side and that the barge couldn't give me the luxury of a 1/2 mile of room. I cut the inside of the green mark by 50 ft and made the admiral happy, and had no impact on the barge. The barge would not have hit the bouy. I know they are better than that.

It's about expectations.
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Old 08-09-2006, 18:35   #7
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We see alot of stupid PWC operators riding and jumping the bow swells of the big lakers going up the St. Lawrence River all the time. They don't seem to realize that should they fall off their nice little toy they do not stand a chance...

Lori, Rick and Shadow
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Old 08-09-2006, 20:59   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ssullivan
With all the other regulations out there, I'm surpised we don't have something useful like restrictions on blocking channels.
You mean, like, rule #9?
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Old 08-09-2006, 21:17   #9
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Rules are made for the ones most likely to get hurt!!!

Unfortunatly, we all have to go by the rules made to protect the ignorant.
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Old 09-09-2006, 00:04   #10
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It's contagious for some

The windsurfers & kiteboarders seem to have a death wish out there by the Golden Gate bridge............where for those not familiar the compressed breeze from the surrounding hills funnel into the bay and it's very narrow compared to the rest of the bay creating a tight squeeze when multiple container ships, tugs & ferrys are trying to get thru not to mention GK trying to get back his slip .........aka The Slot............the winds easily avg 25kts at some point most summer days

GK & C may remember this one from the near past (think it was '05 but no later than '04) here in the bay right in front of the Richmond/San Rafael bridge (very large connecting the North Bay to East Bay for you out of towners) where a sailboat (hang your head & hide your gloves gang) refused to give way to a huge car carrier, crossed directly in front, ignored all the horn warnings and when the ship did a last second move to avoid him, the ship hit the pilings protecting one of the many bridge supports which damaged the ship...........luckily not the bridge.

To make matters worse, the guy then responds to the report of his lunacy in Latitude 38 with a debate that lasted several months ......of course he never revealed his name or boat name. The coast guard did not find him that day. He insisted that he had right of way over & over again....scary.

Luckily most sailors & boaters know the rules & give the many comm'l ships in the bay plenty of room as they transit the channels that criss-cross the bay. The ferries are very kind to sailboats as I've seen them alter course many times to not disturb a good tack. But it only takes one to ruin the party for the rest of us.
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Old 09-09-2006, 06:03   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lodesman
You mean, like, rule #9?
Not really. I mean something on a smaller scale, that applies to small vessels. This is more of a question of what happens in practice. What I have a problem with are these 18' aluminum skiffs where the guy is out fishing on his day off from work. I have seen more than a normal number of these drifting around, right through the channel on the weekend when there are hundreds of boats coming and going, trying to navigate the channel.

These guys are often pretty drunk and oblivious to anything going on around them (the ones I've seen). The channel traffic just goes around them. Why? They are the locals, and you really can't assert your right of way over them without offending people.

But... I think there should be more local (read Harbormaster enforced) rules governing this type of situation, as they would on a local road. Rule #9, in practice, applies more to smaller vessels blocking tugs, etc...
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Old 09-09-2006, 07:22   #12
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Sean,

I think this covers the situation you speak of:

(b) A vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway.

What is needed is enforcement - either the harbourmasters or the coast guard or the police have to get on with enforcing the rules. As for drunken boaters, I would hope there are rules against that in the States! It's an offence in Canada, but apparently not so in the UK.

Kevin
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Old 09-09-2006, 08:44   #13
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"The channel traffic just goes around them." Onceuponatime, I was crewing in a fairly large race (upwards of 75 boats) that was part of a series that was running two races per day. As we finished the morning race, we noticed aboat with a pretty blue light and a fancy red stripe pulling away from the committee boat.

And the afternoon race was cancelled. Which inconvenienced several hundred people on a beautiful afternoon, many of whom belonged to named yacht clubs who were sponsoring the series. And many of whom owned large homes and paid large tax bills, in the same area.

It seems that some fuel-oil delivery captain complained to the USCG station that lots of sailboats were "blocking the channel" and racing in it, interfering with his encumbered and protected movements. The only problem was, there WAS NO CHANNEL because if the chart does not call it a channel--it ain't protected as one.

The race was a bust, but our understanding was that some new USCG officer got reassigned to a solo station in the Aleutians once the flack reached his CO. (And with that many boats, you can be sure several hundred letters of complaint went out.)

So, there are two sides to the "it's my channel" argument. But if it is a real channel, and someone is camped in it, by all means--let a patrol craft go around and gently remind them "You can't anchor here, an 800# gorilla is coming over for dinner and he's got reservations."
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Old 18-09-2006, 21:23   #14
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Although not pertaining to commercial traffic, one finds that sailors, too, forget, ignore or are blissfully unaware of the rules...just yesterday we were sailing back to port (Penetanguishene, Georgian Bay) - beautiful September day in 15 knots and sunshine...we were on a starboard (inconsequentially) tack crossing a wide channel - we came near to t-boning a large Hunter (motoring only) who apparantly didn't care to disengage his autopilot and change course...The lesson?...never, ever, assume another vessel will give right of way, even when it is obviously required to do so.
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Old 18-09-2006, 22:08   #15
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CnC:

I am glad I am not the only one to have those problems. I had a guy yell at me to give way because he was on "starboard tack". I guess he thought he was because his boom was on the starboard side....

If ignorance is bliss some of these people must be ecstatic.

Bill
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