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Old 16-08-2015, 10:05   #31
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

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Originally Posted by mstrebe View Post
Last weekend we motored from San Diego to Avalon in Catalina, a 12 hour day for our boat. The wind, current, and waves are all directly on the nose for that trip, so we motor their and sail or motor-sail back. I've been doing this trip two or three times a year for about two decades, and I'm very familiar with the routine traffic.

Recently, a new phenomenon has emerged: The skipper who seems to believe that being on Autopilot automatically makes him the stand-on vessel!

We had two incidents the same day, one involving us, and the other heard over VHF, regarding boats whose skippers felt that being on autopilot somehow made them the stand-on vessel. This is a transcript of my incident, when we were about 200 yards from CPA:

"Fishing vessel 'Mirage', this is S/V Luna Sea off your starboard bow, what are your intentions, over?"
"Luna Sea I'm on Autopilot over."
"Mirage, Luna Sea. As am I sir."
"And?"
"Mirage, this is Luna Sea. Change course to my stern as I am the stand-on vessel over."

No further response, but he did start S-weaving very dramatically to telegraph his annoyance, and passed by my stern as close as he dared to try to scare me. I laughed that off, but about two hours later, two different boats got into it over 16 over the exact same issue: The give-way vessel being obstinate about going off autopilot to change course! And this time, they were arguing about whether or not one of them was on autopilot because his heading wasn't constant, as if that was really the issue.

I've long noticed that autopilots are putting boats on much closer approaches than manual navigation, because many boats are using direct, bouy-to-bouy navigation on reciprocal courses with autopilots that are precise enough that they'll actually hit a boat miles away that's doing the same thing. The number of very close approaches I've had with boats when we're over 20 miles offshore in the San Pedro has gone up dramatically in the past few years, and I attribute most of that increase to autopilots as there actually seem to be fewer boats than there were in the 90's.

That increase in close approaches combined with this dangerous idea that auto-piloting somehow equals priority is increasing the odds of collision here in my opinion.

I'm starting to think that boats on Autopilot should have to flash a masthead strobe to indicate danger to everyone nearby, although that would just make the problem worse.
Why wouldn't you simply adjust your heading by a degree or two whrn you a a few mile off? He is obviously commercial and may or may not be fishing. I dont really trust anyone on the water and always make the safe decision for my boat and crew.
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Old 16-08-2015, 11:03   #32
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

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Originally Posted by mstrebe View Post
...

"Fishing vessel 'Mirage', this is S/V Luna Sea off your starboard bow, what are your intentions, over?"
"Luna Sea I'm on Autopilot over."
"Mirage, Luna Sea. As am I sir."
"And?"
"Mirage, this is Luna Sea. Change course to my stern as I am the stand-on vessel over."

...
That is insane. And more than little terrifying. Colregs and anchoring seem to be the two things that a huge percentage of boaters just don't get, and unfortunately they can hurt a lot more than just themselves, especially when it comes to colregs.

Thanks for posting this, mstrebe.
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Old 16-08-2015, 11:47   #33
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

Have had similar situations. One thing to remember is that (within range) all channel 16 traffic is recorded by the Coast Guard. So all your hailing calls are on the record. If there is a violation of the rules of the road go on the radio and file a complaint with the CG. If it is a licensed captain they will have a headache.

The AP linked to a GPS issue is real. I always jog 1/4 to 1/2 mile off the rhumb line wherever I am going anywhere for that exact reason. Am actually amazed that there are not some headon collisions between Catalina and the mainland here in So Cal.
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Old 16-08-2015, 11:57   #34
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

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Originally Posted by Moontide View Post

1. The AP linked to a GPS issue is real. I always jog 1/4 to 1/2 mile off the rhumb line wherever I am going anywhere for that exact reason.

2. Am actually amazed that there are not some headon collisions between Catalina and the mainland here in So Cal.
1. Wise.

2. We have that here, too, right outside the Golden Gate the fishing boats turn off Point Bonita's buoy to head north through Bonita Channel. I've had close calls there, which taught me about Item 1.

If head-on collisions start to happen regularly, maybe the bozos will get the idea.

Nope! Won't happen. Those kinds of jerks don't read!!!
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Old 16-08-2015, 11:57   #35
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

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Originally Posted by captain58sailin View Post
Just to clear the air, a trawler uses nets and are considered RAM while their nets are in the water, a troller uses hooks and lines, while not considered RAM under the rules, they are definitely restricted in their ability to maneuver when engaged in fishing, and should be given a wide berth if possible.
Capt58 has it right! Anyone who worked commercially knows that and those that don't have no business on the water. When you earn your living out there, you see the damnedest things done by complete idiots. Those of us who have cut their teeth working commercially could tell you stories that would make you question how these turkeys ever got their boat out of the harbor!
My advice is be aware and assume that commercial vessels are working and give them a wide berth making your intentions known well in advance by either VHF or making and holding an avoidance course well in advance. Why risk a collision just to prove you have the right of way? Idiots! Phil
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Old 16-08-2015, 12:09   #36
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

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Originally Posted by Pauline SA View Post
Why wouldn't you simply adjust your heading by a degree or two whrn you a a few mile off? He is obviously commercial and may or may not be fishing. I dont really trust anyone on the water and always make the safe decision for my boat and crew.

Because the stand-on vessel has a duty to stand on until collision is imminent without action, that's why.

Stand-on doesn't mean "right-of-way", it means the vessel that should not move so as not to create uncertainty for the vessel that does have to move. I could have altered course earlier, but it didn't appear that it was going to be a problem until he got pretty close because I misjudged his speed (I thought he was trawling, not underway).

Steering for the stern of a crossing vessel is the standard maneuver and safest for all involved. But if both vessels do it at the same time, they've just move to a head-on collision course. This is why the colregs specify stand-on and give-way rather than prescribing action for both: because both vessels moving is even more dangerous and uncertain than neither vessel moving.

Really I did let it get too close before hailing for intention. Close approaches are very normal in the San Pedro channel and I honestly thought he'd just come slightly to my stern and that would be that.

By the time I realized he wasn't paying attention, the only maneuver left to me was a hard turn to starboard to come to his course alongside and then execute a full circle to get back on my course. My boat was also twice the length and beam of his, and therefore had a larger turning radius and about four times the momentum.

With motorcycling, I too imagine invisibility and take all corrective action myself. That doesn't work when you're the bigger vehicle though.


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Old 16-08-2015, 12:52   #37
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

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Originally Posted by Capt Phil View Post
Capt58 has it right! Anyone who worked commercially knows that and those that don't have no business on the water. When you earn your living out there, you see the damnedest things done by complete idiots. Those of us who have cut their teeth working commercially could tell you stories that would make you question how these turkeys ever got their boat out of the harbor!
My advice is be aware and assume that commercial vessels are working and give them a wide berth making your intentions known well in advance by either VHF or making and holding an avoidance course well in advance. Why risk a collision just to prove you have the right of way? Idiots! Phil
Fishing vessels engaged in fishing have the right of way. This vessel wasn't engaged in fishing, he was transiting faster than my 7 knots, I'd estimate about 10 knots. The mistake on my part occurred because I'd at first assumed he was fishing, and not moving that fast, and by the time I'd realized it, I couldn't safely maneuver if he did.

The col-regs are the col-regs for a reason. Making your own rules, assumptions, "common sense", or determinations of what "should" be the case creates more confusion and more accidents.

Just like people trying to be "nice" in traffic rather than strictly following rules create more problems than they solve, so do people who don't adhere to the nav rules.

When you do what the nav rules prescribe, the other captain can tell what you're doing and can plan his actions appropriately.

When you do anything else, it's inscrutable to the other party what's going on or what you're going to do.

"If I'm commercial I have the right of way", and "The rule of tonnage" are just as stupidly dangerous as "autopilot=stand on". The damned whale watching dinner cruise boats here in San Diego bay try to play that game all the time.

If the guy was engaged in fishing, this never would have occurred because I would have correctly gauged his speed and would have given him berth to his bow (which is what I'd assumed my course was doing when I saw him). OR if he was transmitting AIS as commercial boats are required to do, I would have known his course and speed, but he wasn't.

You can't go to the stern of a trawler or troller without risking getting bound up in their nets or lines, which is another reason why it was important for him to come to my stern. Despite his speed, I couldn't tell whether he was dragging anything or not from my vantage.

It's not about asserting the right-of-way. It's about doing everything possible to avoid collision, part of which is alerting the other vessel, and part of which is standing on when that's your part of the job until such time as you have to take the situation entirely into your own hands and avoid collision.
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Old 16-08-2015, 13:04   #38
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

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Originally Posted by SVJennie View Post
Having ridden a motorcycle for years, I was able to stay alive by maintaining the position that I never, ever had the right of way, and that I was invisible. I have carried this philosophy thru while on the water, and so far so good.
Exactly. Same applies on the water.
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Old 16-08-2015, 13:07   #39
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

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Originally Posted by mstrebe View Post
Small pilothouse trawler, and no, they were transiting at about 10 knots. Given the time of day and course, I assume they were headed back to port in Newport.
..... Assume. Hmmmm.
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Old 16-08-2015, 13:11   #40
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

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Originally Posted by mstrebe View Post
Because the stand-on vessel has a duty to stand on until collision is imminent without action, that's why.

Stand-on doesn't mean "right-of-way", it means the vessel that should not move so as not to create uncertainty for the vessel that does have to move. I could have altered course earlier, but it didn't appear that it was going to be a problem until he got pretty close because I misjudged his speed (I thought he was trawling, not underway).

Steering for the stern of a crossing vessel is the standard maneuver and safest for all involved. But if both vessels do it at the same time, they've just move to a head-on collision course. This is why the colregs specify stand-on and give-way rather than prescribing action for both: because both vessels moving is even more dangerous and uncertain than neither vessel moving.

Really I did let it get too close before hailing for intention. Close approaches are very normal in the San Pedro channel and I honestly thought he'd just come slightly to my stern and that would be that.

By the time I realized he wasn't paying attention, the only maneuver left to me was a hard turn to starboard to come to his course alongside and then execute a full circle to get back on my course. My boat was also twice the length and beam of his, and therefore had a larger turning radius and about four times the momentum.

With motorcycling, I too imagine invisibility and take all corrective action myself. That doesn't work when you're the bigger vehicle though.


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Good call. Damage your boat, injure your crew and then in the ensuing months argue in the courts who was responsible for the damage, injuries, deaths....or. Be aware and make the safe decision and adjust your course.
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Old 16-08-2015, 13:17   #41
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

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Originally Posted by Moontide View Post
The AP linked to a GPS issue is real. I always jog 1/4 to 1/2 mile off the rhumb line wherever I am going anywhere for that exact reason.
How is this any different than being on AP not linked to a GPS?

The problem with hitting things is using a fixed marker/land as a waypoint and not keeping a lookout.

The problem is not an autopilot integrated with a GPS.

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Old 16-08-2015, 14:06   #42
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

If he was going 7 knots, its unlikely he's fishing.

When I used to trawl there was a setting on the dash for trawling mode, which enabled us to travel anywhere between 0.5-1knot. The reason for this is if you go too fast then the drag on the net will cause it to surface rather than sink to the bottom where the tasty fishies are.

You are right to be concerned about the increased risk autopilots can contribute to accidents.

There was a well documented case of a BC Ferry striking a cliff face and sinking, causing the loss of two lives. The vessel was on autpilot and failed to make a planned course change while the mate and the wheelsman were having a non work related conversation.

Having said that, I love my autopilot. One of my least favourite parts of boating is the monotony of driving. I love my autopilot.

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Old 16-08-2015, 14:12   #43
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

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If he was going 7 knots, its unlikely he's fishing.

When I used to trawl there was a setting on the dash for trawling mode, which enabled us to travel anywhere between 0.5-1knot. The reason for this is if you go too fast then the drag on the net will cause it to surface rather than sink to the bottom where the tasty fishies are.

You are right to be concerned about the increased risk autopilots can contribute to accidents.

There was a well documented case of a BC Ferry striking a cliff face and sinking, causing the loss of two lives. The vessel was on autpilot and failed to make a planned course change while the mate and the wheelsman were having a non work related conversation.

Having said that, I love my autopilot. One of my least favourite parts of boating is the monotony of driving. I love my autopilot.

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I believe the inquiry found that that non work related conversation was more like close encounters of the intimate kind.

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Old 16-08-2015, 15:19   #44
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

:thumbup:

Being a trawling skipper was easily the most challenging work I have ever done.

Out in all weather on a little 60 ton trawler, always backing into big seas, some times breaking.

Tiny 3 man crew. Skipper had to drive the boat and operate the crane at the same time, while one of the guys operated the net hauler and the other one fed the net. Boat handling has to be very precise at low speeds in reverse so you don't back down on your own net. Always coming into some undredged fishing harbour for supplies or what ever.

I only did it for a year, so no doubt it gets easier with time, but I was a different kind of burnt out by the end of it.


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Old 16-08-2015, 17:06   #45
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Re: Autopilot does not equal Stand On Vessel!

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Originally Posted by mstrebe View Post
Because the stand-on vessel has a duty to stand on until collision is imminent without action, that's why.

Stand-on doesn't mean "right-of-way", it means the vessel that should not move so as not to create uncertainty for the vessel that does have to move. I could have altered course earlier, but it didn't appear that it was going to be a problem until he got pretty close because I misjudged his speed (I thought he was trawling, not underway).

Steering for the stern of a crossing vessel is the standard maneuver and safest for all involved. But if both vessels do it at the same time, they've just move to a head-on collision course. This is why the colregs specify stand-on and give-way rather than prescribing action for both: because both vessels moving is even more dangerous and uncertain than neither vessel moving.

Really I did let it get too close before hailing for intention. Close approaches are very normal in the San Pedro channel and I honestly thought he'd just come slightly to my stern and that would be that.

By the time I realized he wasn't paying attention, the only maneuver left to me was a hard turn to starboard to come to his course alongside and then execute a full circle to get back on my course. My boat was also twice the length and beam of his, and therefore had a larger turning radius and about four times the momentum.

With motorcycling, I too imagine invisibility and take all corrective action myself. That doesn't work when you're the bigger vehicle though.


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I'm going to be careful what I write because I know how quickly this will get out of hand. One of the problems of reading someone else's near miss is that I wasn't there, so I can't really tell how long you left it.

But when I first read your post with the fisherman I thought, hell, I would not have left it so long before taking evasive action. But then again, I don't live in an area of such significant traffic as you do.

The post of he that referred to the motorcycle I think has it pretty right. Should always be acting in a defensive mode, both on the road and in the water.

Personally I would have simply turned from being the stand on to being the give way vessel.

Now, don't get me wrong, he's an idiot, his radio response indicates that. And Im' quite stonished too given he's a comercial vessel. Though maybe he had his untrained deck hand minding the wheel.

You clearly understand the importance of remaining 'stand on', which is particulary prevelant for large shipping, but I think in this instance, from not being there position, I wonder if you didn't apply the theory.
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