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Old 22-04-2011, 16:44   #1
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Courtesy vs the Rules of the Road

Last weekend, taking a break from tinkering, I headed out of Hamilton Dock in Lowestoft ostensibly to test out a few changes I had made but frankly, I went out just because I wanted (Needed?) to be out at sea again rather than spend another day “Improving” things that are already close to perfect.
Almost 40 Nm offshore, to my North, I spotted what I think was a “Blythe” twin hull motor sailor, I’m guessing she was about a 40 footer, and with the glasses, I saw that she was flying the correct flags to identify her as being at anchor and, as having divers down below.
Within minutes, she hailed a tanker headed her way from her North, identified herself, advised that she was at anchor and had divers over the side, and asked that the tanker take evasive action.
The tanker driver, Russian, Polish, I’m not sure of his nationality, responded positively and did indeed not only change course, but also had the courtesy to call me to ask if I was aware of his course change.
I was mightily impressed by the tanker driver’s courtesy, I was also mightily amazed that he had agreed to change course because:
The dive boat was anchored at: 52 15.500N, 002 40.983E which is almost in the dead centre of the intersection point of TWO of the North Sea’s busiest shipping lanes.
The tanker driver displayed exemplary courtesy by changing course and by notifying all of us in the vicinity that she was about to do so, BUT, although the Coast Guard monitor ship to ship communications, since neither the tanker driver or myself complained about the obvious infraction by the dive boat, I assume that no action would be taken against them.
Although I hate the “Reach Out and Sue Someone” lawyer’s approach to things, I have wondered in the past few days if I, or the tanker driver should have complained to the Coast Guard about the dive boat’s illegal mooring, she being essentially a “Pleasure Craft”, but being anchored at the intersection of TWO of the N.S busiest shipping lanes, was clearly in violation of the rules.
In this instance, there was not a problem, but that was due to the tanker driver being a good guy, but I have asked myself “What If” a future tanker driver might not respond in that way.
The dive boat, absolutely, positively, without any shadow of doubt, should NOT have been anchored, with divers over the side in the place that she was.
All of which leads to my question:
Would YOU contact the Coast Guard to report the incident and ask them to have an Unofficial word with the owner to advise them of safe diving practice, or, would you just let it slide by?.
If I report, I’m in danger of becoming part of the “Granny State”, if I don’t report, I’m in danger of not reporting poor practices that might at some point, put lives in danger. I don’t know who operates the dive boat so a face to face with them is not possible.
I would greatly appreciate any advice you can offer me on this, I hate to see folks putting lives at risk but I’m not a cop, I’m just a sailor, and this is bugging me big time. Your advice? Please respond with your thoughts. James
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Old 22-04-2011, 16:50   #2
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Re: Courtesy Vs. The rules of the road

by shipping lane do you mean marked channel?
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Old 22-04-2011, 16:53   #3
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Re: Courtesy Vs. The rules of the road

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The dive boat, absolutely, positively, without any shadow of doubt, should NOT have been anchored, with divers over the side in the place that she was.


Based on what Rule or Code or Regulation?
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Old 22-04-2011, 16:57   #4
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Re: Courtesy Vs. The rules of the road

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Originally Posted by sarafina View Post
by shipping lane do you mean marked channel?
No, this is the North Sea I'm referring to, there are no traffic lights or clearly marked lighted freeways, BUT, if you check your charts for this area, you will see clearly defined shipping lanes. And we as small boat sailors need to be aware of the rules of the road...
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Old 22-04-2011, 17:01   #5
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Re: Courtesy Vs. The rules of the road

I agree that dropping anchor and going for a dive where the big boys screw thru is not wise... I just don't know that it's against any regulation, or something to bother the guard with.

Nice that everyone was polite and it all worked out.

I do get the being bugged by it... Stiff like this bugs me too.
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Old 22-04-2011, 17:03   #6
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Re: Courtesy Vs. The rules of the road

A shipping lane in this sense is the customary passage between two points on the North Sea for motor vessels. The English Channel, by contrast, is so heavily travelled that not only does it have "up" and "down" lanes, it has a sort of traffic control that small, hard to see sailboats ignore at their peril.


As for the original post, this is a rare triumph of courtesy and good seamanship over rules and, I suspect, ignorance. Perhaps a way to proceed, as this is a question based in the North Sea, which few North Americans will understand is a very busy, potentially foggy and/or stormy, frequently shallow and navigationally restricted body of water, is to write to the online versions of PBO and the other British sailing magazines to see what the opinions of others are.

For myself, on Lake Ontario, we have a roughly analogous situation in which hordes of 250 metre lake freighters ply well charted lanes from the Welland Canal to the St. Lawrence. Some boaters crossing to the States do not always seem to know this. I have on occasion heard sailors asking the "big black ship" to avoid them on Channel 16 (this isn't the channel you use to talk to a commercial ship), not realizing that being right about "sail over power" is not going to make inertia nor a thick steel bow go away.

Someone will know who this is...how many cats are also dive boats in the North Sea? A quiet word to the skipper could do wonders.
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Old 22-04-2011, 17:15   #7
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Re: Courtesy Vs. The rules of the road

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Originally Posted by James Baines View Post
The dive boat, absolutely, positively, without any shadow of doubt, should NOT have been anchored, with divers over the side in the place that she was.
I'm having a hard time understanding your concern, beginning with your assertion that the dive boat "absolutely, positively, without any shadow of a doubt" should not have been anchored in offshore waters. I don't have charts of that area, but even if it's some sort of restricted zone, how is it possible that you and the tanker were allowed to be there while the divers were not?

You seem to be troubled by your assumption that this was a pleasure vessel, although it seems equally reasonable to assume that this vessel was engaged in research of some sort. Is there some sort of assumption you are making that vessels engaged in pleasure forfeit all rights in open water? If so, this is a bizarre interpretation of the rules of the road.

Regardless of how we resolve the question of the dive boat's pleasure/research status, they seem to have done everything properly, especially in terms of informing nearby vessels that they have divers overboard. The result of this was that it was NO BIG DEAL for the ship to adjust its course. They were not in any way restricted by draft or otherwise constrained, and in such situations it takes very little effort to adjust a ship's course appropriately. Honestly, it's usually easier for a ship to make such a turn, given ample warning and room, than it would be to make such a course change on a sailboat, especially if sails would require to be trimmed differently on the new course.

Bothering the coast guard about such a matter, in my opinion, would have been the height of foolishness. They have more important affairs to which they must attend, and at some point might have wanted to check your sobriety had you summoned them over such concerns.
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Old 22-04-2011, 17:19   #8
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Re: Courtesy Vs. The rules of the road

If the dive boat was on official business a notice to shipping would have been issued would it not? The dive boat; If they were recreational divers, common sense would dictate them issuing a securite alert. Traffic separation zones are not hard to see on a chart. Providing you read the chart.
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Old 22-04-2011, 17:42   #9
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Re: Courtesy Vs. The rules of the road

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Originally Posted by doug86 View Post
Based on what Rule or Code or Regulation?
[/SIZE][/FONT]
Hi Doug,
I don’t know what the “Law” has to say on this, I’m just a simple sailing Physicist, but I can tell you what is the generally “Accepted Practice” in this, and indeed, in most parts of the world.
A well defined “Shipping or Commercial Traffic” lane is regarded as being one in which one should expect to be heavily used by commercial traffic and one which would be a lane that although we are allowed to cross, would be a lane that we would be discouraged from sailing along.
Crossing a clearly marked “Shipping Lane” is generally regarded as an “At Risk” action for us small boater’s and although we all do it all the time, It is my understanding is that is Us at risk when we do so rather than the commercial guys who view those lanes as being theirs.
PS: Would you consider investing a few bucks to join me in restoring the Freedom 44 we discussed before?. I have lined up a good restorer, I have a good idea of the costs involved, and I would love to restore her. Interested? If so, send me a private msg. Regards, James.
PPS: if it were not for lawyer’s, we would not need lawyers…
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Old 22-04-2011, 18:04   #10
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Re: Courtesy Vs. The rules of the road

I don't know what is the customary notice given in European waters, but in the states You should not count on any kind of notice for a short term research operation. I used to do this for a living and my wife still does. While local law enforcement is informed prior to doing a research dive, unless one is planning an extended operation, on the order of days or weeks, I've never heard of a notice being given to anyone outside of the law enforcement environment. If a research vessel was diving for only a few hours I would not expect to see any notice. Flying proper flags is apparently considered sufficient.
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Old 22-04-2011, 18:14   #11
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Re: Courtesy Vs. The rules of the road

Here notices to shipping are broadcast on a regular schedule and might include anything from a dredge at work to a floating dock adrift. Anything that might be considered a hazard to navigation.
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Old 22-04-2011, 18:19   #12
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Re: Courtesy Vs. The rules of the road

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Here notices to shipping are broadcast on a regular schedule and might include anything from a dredge at work to a floating dock adrift. Anything that might be considered a hazard to navigation.

Things like dredge at work tend to be long term. I would make security calls myself if I was running a short term diving operation in a channel or shipping lane, but I would not expect any kind of official notice for a short term operation.
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Old 22-04-2011, 22:46   #13
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Re: Courtesy Vs. The rules of the road

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Here notices to shipping are broadcast on a regular schedule and might include anything from a dredge at work to a floating dock adrift. Anything that might be considered a hazard to navigation.
Yes, usually a "Securite" is issued at a fixed time on the hour or something of that nature.
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Old 22-04-2011, 23:12   #14
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Re: Courtesy Vs. The rules of the road

I think if the freighter thought the dive boat was in the wrong or creating a hazard, they would have contacted the USCG themselves.
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Old 23-04-2011, 05:21   #15
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Re: Courtesy Vs. The rules of the road

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I think if the freighter thought the dive boat was in the wrong or creating a hazard, they would have contacted the USCG themselves.
Jiffy, why would anyone contact the US Coast Guard for anything in that goes on in the Baltic Sea?
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