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Old 07-06-2009, 21:40   #1
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Talking To Ships Offshore

When we first started sailing around the world, I frequently would try to raise ships on VHF radio when we were sailing offshore.

Then after knowing someone who was run down in a fairly deliberate manner by a ship, I decided that it was better to not hail a ship unless there was an emergency reason to do so.

I figured that if I didn't hail them, they probably would not know that I was there, and that suited me just fine. Most ships won't answer anyway unless you call out their name.

Ships sometime behave in a curious manner and they come over to have a look. At other times, they behave in an agressive manner that is a potential threat to my yacht.

How do you feel about talking to ships offshore? Do you think it is a good or bad idea?
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Old 07-06-2009, 22:38   #2
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My opinion is that communications are for a reason. Unless there is a reason to hail a ship, you shouldn't.

My sense of things is that most ships are automated, crewed by few, many of whom don't speak English as a native language and are probably not interested in a chat.
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Old 07-06-2009, 23:32   #3
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Near port, I agree that it is probably best not to contact the ship unless there is the possibility of a crossing situation developing. When on the high seas however, I often hail ships as we pass each other. Sometimes they aren't particularly communicative, but often they seem happy for the contact, and are just as curious about us as we are about them. I've had some very nice conversations with some very interesting people. When one is a thousand of miles from land and haven't seen another vessel for days, most people welcome the contact.
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Old 08-06-2009, 19:46   #4
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On the Chesapeake, the Bay Pilots and Tugs will usually respond.

Not for chit chat but if there is a safety issue of some sort.
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Old 08-06-2009, 19:52   #5
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They will usually respond on 16 or 13, particularly if you call them by name (from AIS). I always call if we are going to pass within 2 miles.
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Old 08-06-2009, 22:16   #6
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I avoid them at all costs.
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Old 09-06-2009, 01:28   #7
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I chat to them when at sea but not when close to land except on one occasion just off Sydney heads when one tried to run me down.

Had some great chats and usually get someone just wanting to fill in some time or chat to someone different for a change. Had some bloke on a oil rig going hard out on the benefits of changing your home stove to gas at 3am off the Taranaki coast, that was funny. Had one up in the Pacific Islands who asked if Fiji was West of Tonga, that was a bit spooky.

The one off Sydney didn't answer but after I started using some very bad words, many spaced by the F word, I did get a visit from the Sydney Harbour master when we pull up. Once I explain the ship missed my by less than 100mts after I had changed course and he followed me, TWICE, the harbour Master went to grill the ship.

I've found them usually pretty good. But at the same time many haven't replied when called. Hopefully that was just because they were lazy or didn't speak English rather than no-one on the bridge.

But concerned to hear of someone being run down Maxing, possibly on purpose. What was that about do you know?
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Old 09-06-2009, 02:38   #8
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I chat to them when at sea but not when close to land except on one occasion just off Sydney heads when one tried to run me down.

All this talk about ships deliberately running down yachts -- what the h*ll? I've never heard of such a thing. Surely you're all joking? Maybe the odd Haitian smuggler (another thread about that recently), but a regular ship on the high seas? Why?!
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Old 09-06-2009, 06:48   #9
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i don't know about large ships trying to run someone down but the other night off jersey (uk) i'll swear a trawler turned deliberately into our path (this was after we had made a very obvious turn at a safe distance to avoid him)
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Old 09-06-2009, 08:55   #10
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Fishing boats never go in straight lines - the skipper has his eyes glued to the fishfinder and sonar to maxomise his catch and avoid snagging his nets. I used to think that they were after me but I've come to the conclusion that they are just earning a living without paying too much attention to any leisure boats that may happen to be around!
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Old 09-06-2009, 09:07   #11
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crossing situation

I once had a ship ignore my hail in a crossing situation where I was under sail and Rule #9 did not apply. When I repeated the information in the form of a PAN PAN hail, I got an immediate reply and quick action on the ship's part.
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Old 09-06-2009, 10:06   #12
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My sense of things is that most ships are automated, crewed by few, many of whom don't speak English as a native language and are probably not interested in a chat.
Not my experience, in the atlantic anyway. Single handed I will sometimes call them up (AIS is great, know the name) for weather but really to have a chat, guy on watch normally seems bored and likes a chat. And in straits of gib, english seemed to be the default language for ships checking in with vts.
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Old 09-06-2009, 10:22   #13
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We just finished a passage from Puerto Rico to Cartagena, Colombia and the ship on the video was the ONLY one we saw in the entire passage. This was about 180 NM north of Aruba and we were unable to contact them on Chanel 16 so we just keep our path and observed as the ship was going away.



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Old 09-06-2009, 11:38   #14
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Recent event: commercial ship sinks research vessel

I can't recall the date, but within the last year or two, a group of academic types were sunk while sailing their experimental craft in Asain waters. 12 of them ended up in the drink but without fatality.

They were crewing a non-metalic, non-plastic craft built of reeds or something like that so perhaps a lack of radar reflection was at fault.

The primary importance of the story was that they managed to get out a distress call on VHF which was, surprisingly, picked up by mainland U.S. Coast Guard stations which then forwarded the 'mayday' to rescue authorities near China or Hong Kong. AND, they then reported that the ship that ran them down actually stopped long enough to assess the situation and then resumed their course without stopping to render aid!!!

As for commercial ships intentionally targeting a smaller cruiser, thats hard to believe.
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Old 09-06-2009, 13:34   #15
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All this talk about ships deliberately running down yachts -- what the h*ll? I've never heard of such a thing. Surely you're all joking? Maybe the odd Haitian smuggler (another thread about that recently), but a regular ship on the high seas? Why?!
I seriously doubt it was deliberate but at the time it was pretty freaky. A big ship came up from behind us in the early hours. By the time the crew (owner) woke me it was close so I did a 90 degree turn, the bugger followed us. Did another turn and they did it again getting closer all the time. I held course thinking it would turn again but it just got too close do I did a high speed U turn and ran down the side of it, only 100ft feet away at this time. During all of this I was being 'vocal' on the VHF and as we were only 20mls off off the coast Sydney harbour control heard the lot. After the Harbour Master visited me for the language and I told him what happened he was off to the ship. He knew which one it was and I don't know what happened after that.

But I was driving a 60ft steel ketch at the time so would have been a big radar target.
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