Ok some clarification is apparently in order.
I was inbound in the channel well to the correct side. The entrance is hugely back lit from restaurant row so seeing ANY running lights is difficult hense our cautious speed.
Several properly lit shrimpers had passed us already, outbound in the channel were one would expect them to be, moving at a speed I would have considered appropriate for conditions which were pitch
black and only slightly choppy, wind
maybe 10knots right on their bow.
The shrimper in question came from outside the channel from my port side at a high rate of speed. His engine
was clearly audible turning high revs as he passed after I took evasive action. There were no other lights visible on the boat even as he got further away. No stern light and not even a glimmer of a green and no steaming lights(higher on the masts facing forward) like on all the other shrimpers that passed us.
At the speed he was moving there is not the slightest chance he was fishing and he crossed the channel at almost right angle TO the channel.
The boat that spot lighted us was an inbound crew boat(not the shrimper in question) who upon reaching our position in the channel kindly chopped power to avoid hammering us with his wake.
My best guess is the shrimper was late getting up and out the door and left the wheel
, got outside the channel somehow and was trying to get back in the channel when he passed us.
These are bay shrimpers and do fish the shallow waters of Galveston Bay not out in the gulf. They are largely (but not excusively) Vietnamese and many (not all) of their boats are in deplorable condition. Dirty, rusty, unpainted, and with a local reputation for being willing to bend or break the rules both of safety
and the Fisheries Dept.
They are constantly being fined for infractions from dumping sewage to illegal fishing activities and are the least courtious boats on the ClearLake channel regularly deliberately turning in front of pleasure boats knowing full well we will take action to avoid running into them.
I was a commercial fisherman for a few years and have a pretty good idea of the rules we had to follow and how some pleasure boaters just don't understand that we can't manuver easily.
This particular occurance was none of these.
As for my watch keeping? Here are a couple of points. 4:30am has no bearing on anything. I have as much right or reason to be on the water
as any other boat.
I was carefully approaching a brightly back lit channel entrance and this boat came, mostly unlit (but backlit), from outside the channel, an shallow, piling strewn area, that even the most swivel headed helms man would not have expected.
My boat should have been easily seen by the shrimper, correctly lit as it was, with a starless (overcast) black sky and unlit horizon behind me, had he been at the wheel
I agree he was the stand on boat which, other than the fear of being runover at night in a busy channel, was the major reason I changed course to avoid him.
Right or wrong rules wise, this guy was operating an unsafe vessel, in an unsafe manner, at inappropriate speed for conditions and location.
I got lucky I didn't get hit and am thankful for that............m