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Old 23-09-2013, 11:55   #1
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Big Ship Little Boat, who Gives way

I see that the ferry thread has been closed, and I do not wish to resurrect it, but AVB3 did request that I pass on the thoughts of the Mates on my boat, who are all professionally qualified.

So here goes:

Yesterday, I said I would put this scenario to my watchkeepers, and get their opinions on what they would do and expect in such a situation, and also their opinions on some of the Colreg interpretations expressed in the thread.

So, today, at lunch time, we spent 45 minutes going through this. Included in the discussion was the Mate, the 2nd Mate and Third Mate, in addition, our deck cadet, and also a charming young French lady onboard who was conducting an audit. As she held an Unlimited Masters ticket, plus an Unlimited Chief Engineers ticket, and had sailed deep sea as both Mate and Chief Engineer, I felt she too was also qualified to express an opinion.

So, first to the scenario, a power driven vessel overtaking a sail boat.
Unanimous, the overtaking vessel keeps clear of the vessel being overtaken, and in any event, it does not matter what type of vessel is being overtaken, Rule 13 is pretty concise on this.
Point was raised, what if this had taken place at night. At night, the watchkeeper on the ferry would have no idea what type of vessel they were overtaking (unless NUC, RAM, or vessel engaged in fishing). At night, the overtaking vessel would see a single white light.
Now, this white light could be a vessel seen from astern, a vessel at anchor, or a vessel of less than 7m in length (and less than 7 kts speed), or a sailing vessel of less than 7 meters)
The view was that careful observation would indicate what they were dealing with, but in just about any event, if the bearing was steady, they would alter course, or if still not sure, reduce speed.
I put to them, that someone on CF was under the impression that big ships had terrible visibility from the bridge, huge blind sectors forward of the bow, all sorts of obstructions on the bridge leading to other vessels not being seen.
As the Mate so succinctly put it “Bollocks”, this then had to be translated into French.
Watchkeepers move about on the bridge, they walk from one side to the other, walk to the aft end and look astern, by doing this, we have a 360 view.


So, what if it had been in a narrow channel or fairway, pretty much the same answer, although the closing distance before taking action may well be less.
In narrow channels and fairways, a sailing vessel or a PD vessel of less than 20m shall not impede the safe passage of another vessel which can only navigate within the channel.
However, the Colregs are very clear on this, if the sailing vessel does not take action to avoid impeding the safe passage of the other vessel, then the vessel not to be impeded is fully obliged to follow the Colregs and take action to avoid collision. If need be, the overtaking vessel can make a sound signal indicating that they request the vessel to be overtaken to take action to allow safe passing

So, that bit was sorted out, now I asked their opinions on what they would like to see a sail boat do if they sighted one at sea where risk of collision existed.
In open waters, if the sail boat dodged out of the way at a considerable distance off, no problem. But this raised the question of when would the sail boat see us.
We keep a watch from the bridge, a good 20m above sea level. On the sail boat, the lookout may well have a height of eye a few feet above sea level. Long before the sailboat sights us, we would already have seen mast and sails (by day) or the tricolour light (at night). At this stage, the sail boat will still be unaware of us. We may spot the sail boat at say 8 to 10 miles out (radar then sight), the sail boat without radar, it might be 5 to 6 miles before they see us, and 5 to 6 miles separation deep sea is when most ships are looking at a close quarters situation developing
However, I said open seas, if we took action and the sail boat took action at the same time, there is still time for us to re assess the situation and make another turn

In confined waters, it was again unaminously agreed, that if we had ascertained a close quarters situation was developing with a sail boat, it would be us who took action, and if the sail boat dodged out of the way, and dodged the wrong way, they would not be happy.
A common situation, we sight a sail boat, but we also have sighted a couple of trawlers beyond the sail boat. We are obliged to giveway to both types of vessels. But what if from the sail boats cockpit, the lookout is completely unaware of the trawlers. What happens if we make a turn based on avoiding the sail boat and the trawlers, and the sail boat turns in towards us, situation starts to head towards chaos.

Lastly, I asked for some views on some of the statements made in the thread, and two were immediately highlighted, and these two were in the opening shots of this thread


“The least maneuverable has the right of way, always”

Gobsmacked by that statement, and in particular because it was an overtaking situation

And then this one

“I can’t imagine why a ferry captain would think a small sailboat WOULDN’T get out of his way”

Any captain or watchkeeper who held this view does not deserve to be at sea, and again, it was agreed by all the guys, and the lady, that this was a very dangerous view.


I’m pretty sure that the above will get pulled apart by someone, but the above is the view held by the mates on my boat.

In conclusion, I asked for a general opinion on how well the participants in the thread knew, and applied the COLREGS. It was generally agreed that most had a pretty good understanding of the COLREGS, and interpretation of the COLREGS was good.
But, sorry Raku, they did make a request that you stay on your side of the pond.


Lastly, just to clear things up, I drive tug boats, but to give you an idea of a tug boat, this is one of the boats I get to drive.
This thing could well be bigger than the ferry in the discussed incident. A draught of over 25 feet, length of 300 feet, gross tonnage is 6800.
Manoeuvrable ??. On passage, we have to limit the rudder to less than 5 degree’s, anything more and she turns way to fast, and develops a pretty good angle of heel, hard over would have the cook complaining to the bridge that dinner was on the galley deck

And note, only one mast, and the accommodation is at the wrong end as compared to most ships, so just how easy would it be to work out the aspect of this boat if it pops up over the horizon??
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Old 23-09-2013, 12:07   #2
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Re: Big Ship Little Boat, who Gives way

Nigel,

Excellent information...would you please comment on the reaction on the bridge when a sailboat contacts you on VHF at 8 nm distance.

Phil
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Old 23-09-2013, 12:12   #3
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Re: Big Ship Little Boat, who Gives way

Thanks, Nigel. The followup is very important and useful.
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Old 23-09-2013, 12:17   #4
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Re: Big Ship Little Boat, who Gives way

Cool. We spend hours and hours speculating about what you guys are thinking about on commercial ships' bridges, and here we have it from the horses mouth.

I am still puzzled a bit about the implications of the fact -- which started to sink in when I had this conversation earlier this year on GCaptain -- that you guys see us so much further away than we see you.

I think lesson number 1, extremely important for all recreational sailors, is that a "close quarters situation" is something different from what might be obvious to us, based on our "feeling" for the situation. For you guys, initial analysis seems to take place at about 10 miles, when we are not even aware of you unless we are watching the radar or have AIS, with a decision point around 5 miles. It means that we are already in a Colregs situation, mostly, when we are first even aware of you, which leaves little room for us to take pre-Colregs maneuvers to "just keep out of the way". In open water, of course, I mean.

It means that the "hold still" phase of collision avoidance begins much earlier than most of us imagine.

What it means for us when we are the give-way vessel is kind of terrifying. Because we don't generally see far enough ahead to take effective action in the right time frames from your point of view.

Collision avoidance is like landing an airplane. It should not be done just be "feel". It is science which needs to be learned. In my opinion, there should be some concrete standards -- at what distance do we need to analyze a situation, at what distance is the decision point, etc. Maybe AIS should be obligatory for recreational vessels - AIS kind of levels the playing field, what concerns eye height and all of that.

I have noticed a profound difference in how crossings with commercial vessels go down since I installed AIS. Part of it is that I now have enough data to know that the helmsman on the commercial vessel has in mind. I can see that he sees me, and I can see what CPA he is holding. I see instantly whether he is passing ahead or behind (God, how I prefer that he passes ahead). It means, I can stand on with confidence, making for a smooth crossing, when before I might bug out with a tack and reciprocal course if the crossing didn't "feel" right, something which can actually be dangerous if the CPA is judged wrong.

I think that the fact that I am broadcasting AIS information must also make it easier for the helmsman on the other vessel to calculate the crossing, although, I suppose a big commercial ARPA system will also give far better data than I had before AIS.

The other thread, which has been closed, was very useful as it revealed the degree of, umm, shall we say, "innocence", which exists among some sailors concerning collision avoidance procedures. Maybe we really need to have an accepted universal protocol for this, which everyone is required to learn.

It's true that we don't have so many collisions between recreational vessels and commercial shipping, but how much aggravation is caused by botched crossings and erratic maneuvering by sailboats? Surely it wouldn't be all that hard, to improve the situation.
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Old 23-09-2013, 12:19   #5
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Re: Big Ship Little Boat, who Gives way

Well done, Nigel, both for having the idea and following it up with an informative report.

Thank you very much.

Jim
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Old 23-09-2013, 12:24   #6
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Re: Big Ship Little Boat, who Gives way

Thanks Nigel

It is great to have some input from a proffesional mariner.
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Old 23-09-2013, 12:25   #7
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Re: Big Ship Little Boat, who Gives way

"But, sorry Raku, they did make a request that you stay on your side of the pond."

nigel1, now you went and opened a whole new can 'o worms.

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Old 23-09-2013, 12:37   #8
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Re: Big Ship Little Boat, who Gives way

To me there is only one rule: stay away from all big ships and do not expect them to be able to see you. Well, that's two.

If I get rammed one day, if I survive, we will see what the regulations say and, if viable, sue accordingly.

Very, VERY often, watchmen on the big ship cannot see the small craft.

In open waters, I simply change our course so that we are not in risk of collision, then I return to our planned course when the big guy is gone.

b.
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Old 23-09-2013, 12:41   #9
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Re: Big Ship Little Boat, who Gives way

Thanks Nigel,
This was very informative.

I was thinking that perhaps there should be a forum formed that sends out an automatic alert when certain members leave the dock so that the rest of us can just stay away.
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Old 23-09-2013, 12:44   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
To me there is only one rule: stay away from all big ships and do not expect them to be able to see you. Well, that's two.

If I get rammed one day, if I survive, we will see what the regulations say and, if viable, sue accordingly.

Very, VERY often, watchmen on the big ship cannot see the small craft.

In open waters, I simply change our course so that we are not in risk of collision, then I return to our planned course when the big guy is gone.

b.
Considering what Nigel just reported regarding visibility and the diligence in which crew members take, on what basis would you say that watchmen on big ships could not see small craft?
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Old 23-09-2013, 12:45   #11
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Re: Big Ship Little Boat, who Gives way

Quote:
Originally Posted by s/v Moondancer View Post
Nigel,

Excellent information...would you please comment on the reaction on the bridge when a sailboat contacts you on VHF at 8 nm distance.

Phil
Think the last time a sail boat called us on VHF was two years ago, and it turned out to be our retired Chartering manager on his own boat sailing out of Peterhead.

As a matter of courtesy, if we find a sail boat coming into a close quarters situation, and they have AIS and we know the name, we will call them, and let them know we have seen them and will avoid them. Saves them the worry of "will they, wont they""
If we are towing, and restricted, will call them if they have AIS, and based on wind direction, will "suggest" a tactic which will keep them clear. Towing, we are moving at 3 to 6 kts through the water, and its perfectly safe for a sail boat in a lot of cases to cut ahead of us by 0.5 miles, if that saves them the bother of a tack or gybe.
If they dont have AIS and we cannot ID them, I dont bother calling, (or only maybe in extremis. Dont really want to call up "sail boat in position......." and watch the helmsman dive down below to the nav station to see where he is at.
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Old 23-09-2013, 12:48   #12
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Re: Big Ship Little Boat, who Gives way

Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
To me there is only one rule: stay away from all big ships and do not expect them to be able to see you. Well, that's two.

If I get rammed one day, if I survive, we will see what the regulations say and, if viable, sue accordingly.

Very, VERY often, watchmen on the big ship cannot see the small craft.

In open waters, I simply change our course so that we are not in risk of collision, then I return to our planned course when the big guy is gone.

b.

That is how I handle commercial traffic when on delivery... I assume they can't see me, so I steer well clear of them....
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Old 23-09-2013, 12:59   #13
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Re: Big Ship Little Boat, who Gives way

Nigel:

Thanks to you, and to your mates, for heaps of good information.

Do tell us non-Brits into what French words you translated the concept "bollocks!" It might be useful to know that one in New Caledonia.

Ann
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Old 23-09-2013, 13:14   #14
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Re: Big Ship Little Boat, who Gives way

Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
To me there is only one rule: stay away from all big ships and do not expect them to be able to see you. Well, that's two.

If I get rammed one day, if I survive, we will see what the regulations say and, if viable, sue accordingly.

Very, VERY often, watchmen on the big ship cannot see the small craft.

In open waters, I simply change our course so that we are not in risk of collision, then I return to our planned course when the big guy is gone.

b.
Great! We have a surrogate Raku to debate the issue with.

Barnakiel, did you get from Nigel's post that he sees you far beyond where you become aware of him? It's because the visual watch is conducted from a far higher eye height, and he has electronic means you don't have. His decision point is far earlier than yours.

So your maneuver is likely to mess up his calculation of the situation -- did you catch what Nigel said about sailboats maneuvering versus holding their course and speed?

Collision avoidance is a science. It shouldn't be done spontaneously, on the basis of feel.
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Old 23-09-2013, 13:18   #15
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pirate Re: Big Ship Little Boat, who Gives way

Good one Nigel...
Personally when crossing a busy TSS like the Channel.. or anywhere else come to that... doing it 35-40 odd w/ends a year for years I've developed a fair eye for judging distances and speeds so make my alterations well in advance... especially when I see a group of 5 or more Bridges loom up on the horizon in the space of a minute and adjust to pass behind.. usually a couple of 12ktrs and overtaking 15+ktrs..
In visibility of less than 2 miles I pray the watchkeepers are diligent and stand ready to react...
In fog I hold a steady course and speed 90* to the TSS lane.. ie; straight across... even if it is not my COD... toot my air horn and switch on what a mate calls my 'Manic Grin'...
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