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Old 23-10-2014, 04:54   #256
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

AIS is our primary watch system. We (brother and myself) crossed the Med from Alicante to Sardinia a couple of days ago. Didn't see ANY ships that were closer than 25 miles for more than 48 hrs, a really EMPTY part of the Med. In those circumstances, we felt that it was OK to watch a couple of movies down below whilst motoring. We checked the AIS every couple of minutes on the plotter and still did a visual 360deg check from the companion way every 15 minutes.

Normally, we always have someone alert in the cockpit (we do 3 hour watches and find it works well). We don't use radar unless we feel that there is a need for it, which could be down to weather, visibility or lots of poorly (or non-) lit fishing boats or other craft in the area.


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Old 23-10-2014, 07:21   #257
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
But why would the "longer range look around via radar" be relegated to an intermittent duty, when it would be alerting you far sooner and far more reliably than your primary watchkeeping method?

I'm struggling to understand this approach. Maybe your radar is given to false alarms, like my old one was? Or you have a power deficit? Whatever the reason, it seems to me like a serious compromise of the effectiveness of watchkeeping, to keep the longest range means of detection in standby most of the time.

Do you have AIS? If not, then a radar plot is going to be your most effective means of figuring a CPA on a contact in order to determine whether you have a situation or not. If you wait until you see it with your bare eyes, you will lose a whole lot of precious time -- radar plots take some time, even automatic ones.

What I do is somewhat different. Far out to sea, I can't keep an effective watch sitting down -- human nature. Especially at night. So I stand on the companionway with my head and shoulders out the scuttle and look out over the bow and think about life. Radar guard zones and AIS alarms set. I can't think of a single case where I have seen a vessel with my eyes before it was picked up by one or both of the electronic means, especially since getting the new radar two years ago (B&G 4G). So when the alarm goes off, I walk back to the helm and figure out what kind of contact we're dealing with. Track it. Take any necessary action. Watch it go by. Check sail trim. Then go back to standing in the companionway.

Last summer, crossing the North Sea, I was on watch after midnight with another crew (I like to double the watches after midnight, if there's enough crew). We were passing through what should have been, according to absolutely fresh charts (electronic ones updated literally days before), open water. I was actually standing behind the radar, and not in the companionway, at this time, and was watching the radar screen. Suddenly at the outer range (set on 18 miles I think), appeared a mass of contacts like an invading fleet of alien spaceships. No AIS! It completely freaked me out -- what the h***? After doing a little plotting, I realized that all the contacts were stationary. So I altered course to pass just to the South of it. More than an hour later, only, did we make visual contact -- a giant wind farm! In the middle of the North Sea. The early warning was very, very useful.
I believe I mentioned the radar is in stby on clear nights with good visibility while sailing (not motoring), and then only for about 13 minutes at a time during which I am looking around just as I am during daytime sailing. I don't think that's quite the dereliction of watchkeeping you seem to want to suggest it is. Do you keep your radar on all day as well? If not, why not?

Do you really, really think that if someone somehow manages to run into you on a clear day or night, despite you clearly seeing them coming via AIS as well as visually, and attempting to hail them and maneuver to avoid them, but due to your radar being in stby for 13 minutes out of the last 15, that the accident will be deemed to be your fault, and then you equate that with being sound asleep? I think we've officially entered the land of the bizarre.....

Yes, I do have an AIS receiver, but not transmitter. I've only had this boat for a year and it's another one of those things on the upgrade list.
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Old 23-10-2014, 10:36   #258
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Soloing is an extreme sport.
Soloing should only be done by a small percentage of sailors who can withstand the rigors.
Soloing is illegal.
Well, I agree with all but the last one. Too many good people out there soloing. I do think you need to really prepare and know what you are up against. The hitting something test works out for me:
I am usually 15 feet above the water cause I am in 6-8 foot swells and eye level is about 6-8 feet above water. My speed at night when soloing is 4 knots. The speed of the tankers around here is 12-16 knots. I am mostly concerned with
1. Large debry- at four knots I need them on my radar at three miles away- I set my digital radar up to detect breaking waves and crab pots at 3 miles out. It gave me false reading one time because it was picking up waterfowl!
2. Intercepting vessels- my AIS picks them up from 20 miles away. The fishing vessels are much more problematic but they generally see me and switch their AIS on when we are 1-2 miles away/ or they show up on radar.
Away, with all this I sleep comfortably in the cockpit for 25 minutes and then check watch for 5. Last close call I had was before I had radar and AIS....
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Old 23-10-2014, 10:47   #259
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Somewhat relevant/interesting to this topic: Shipping density maps:

Click image for larger version

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Click image for larger version

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ID:	90179

You may be able to see what I meant about 50S. And why one would want to take special care in Dock's part of the world.

The second map has a scale which suggests 240sq nm per ship (edit: no, that's not quite correct as the 1 degree square gets smaller toward the poles* - let's say more like an average of 180 sq nm per ship) for the second highest density measurement (15 ships per 1 degrees square). The highest density color has an unbounded top end, eg +20 ships per 1 degree square)

* a bit silly to use a unit of area that changes size! I wonder if they really meant 1 degree x 1 degree or if they actually used 60 nm x 60nm.
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Old 23-10-2014, 11:18   #260
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jtsailjt View Post
I believe I mentioned the radar is in stby on clear nights with good visibility while sailing (not motoring), and then only for about 13 minutes at a time during which I am looking around just as I am during daytime sailing. I don't think that's quite the dereliction of watchkeeping you seem to want to suggest it is. Do you keep your radar on all day as well? If not, why not?

Do you really, really think that if someone somehow manages to run into you on a clear day or night, despite you clearly seeing them coming via AIS as well as visually, and attempting to hail them and maneuver to avoid them, but due to your radar being in stby for 13 minutes out of the last 15, that the accident will be deemed to be your fault, and then you equate that with being sound asleep? I think we've officially entered the land of the bizarre.....

Yes, I do have an AIS receiver, but not transmitter. I've only had this boat for a year and it's another one of those things on the upgrade list.
I didn't say it's a dereliction of watchkeeping to turn off your radar if your other means of detection are working well and you judge the circumstances (weather, visibility ) allow you to slack a bit on the radar. Just like I don't make categorical and dogmatic judgments about single-handers who may decide to slack a bit on their visual watchkeeping for the sake of resting, if the conditions allow them to rely more on electronic means.

It's all a matter of judgement, which I am not inclined to second-guess too much. My point was that it seems quite hypocritical to me to come down like a ton of bricks on singlehanders for taking 15 minute naps, when you are quite casually willing to go without radar, which is just as much a violation of Rule 5.

The legal and practical consequences are the same -- if nothing happens, it is unlikely you will have any problem. But if on the odd chance you are napping below, and your radar somehow misses some vessel which is not transmitting AIS and you have a collision, you are going to be blamed for it -- IF you survive.

The exact same thing with your radar. I trust you to know when it's appropriate to use it or not -- who am I to say otherwise? You are probably a much better mariner than I am. But if you make a mistake, and don't see that vessel -- and it is awfully easy not to see something, since the visual, human watch is subject to so many human factors -- and you have an accident, and your radar was off -- well, then, violation of Rule 5 will figure very large in the inquest -- IF you survive. Exactly like the case of the napping single-hander.


As to my specific practice of using radar:

In my opinion, the denser trafficked and more coastal the waters, the more important the human watch, and the less important the electronic one. I turn the radar off in harbors and in places like the Solent -- just power it down and put it to bed -- it's useless there where your horizon of awareness hardly extends beyond a couple of miles. In close quarters, collision avoidance is a much more spontaneous affair -- mostly just dodge out of the channel and let the ship go by.

In open water, and the further you get from shore, the less important is the visual watch and the more important is the electronic one. Your horizon of awareness needs to be much greater -- to 10 miles and desirably more, where it starts to be hard to see things with your eyes anyway -- where the waters are open, ships will be moving fast, and may not be keeping a perfect watch themselves. Here I put more and more emphasis on electronic means. Far out to see, I never turn off my radar, day or night, fair weather or foul, and I watch the radar screen more than the horizon. I become primarily a radar operator. That is because far out to sea, I don't want any vessel closer than 10 or 15 miles to me which I'm not aware of, and radar and AIS are the things for that. Out there, for me, the visual watch is just a safety net to catch anything which falls through the AIS and radar nets -- but nothing ever does.

That's the way I do it, FWIW, which does not mean that it's the right or the only way to do it.
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Old 23-10-2014, 11:30   #261
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Depends on where i am, but in short, no i do not keep a constant lookout. If I haven't seen anything in three weeks I get a bit lax with things and a head-pop and a scan every now and then keeps me comfortable. Especially if it's raining........ and there's a good card game going......... and some nice dried meats.......... and a glass of rum.
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Old 23-10-2014, 11:45   #262
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

I see a lot of people talk about sleeping thirty mins, wonder why when i was doing my training in the Royal Marine Commando, they never knew about this, could it be because they tried stuff like that in the first world war, and a description of the subjects it was tried on was "drunk with fatigue" The main type of people that claim to do this, are people looking for sponsorship in the round the world race, i have sailed with a lot of people, and never met anyone that surfaces every fifteen mins, or every half hour, met plenty that can sleep for ten hours though.

I went ten days in the Atlantic without seeing a single ship, at the point 45 degrees west, and 40 degrees east its like picadily circus, you see at least four ships a day, its everyone keeping south and east of the limits of ice, very busy part of the Atlantic. Like i say though, a merchant ship will always see you, the only people that think merchant vessels dont keep a good watch, are yachties and fishermen who have never been on a merchant vessel, on a merchant vessel they think yachties and fishermen dont keep a watch, and on fishing vessels they think merchant ships and yachties dont keep a watch, I have been on all three types of vessel at one time or another, and i have never seen anyone but yachts sail with no one on watch, and that can only be done because power gives way to sail.
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Old 23-10-2014, 12:22   #263
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Quote:
Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
Somewhat relevant/interesting to this topic: Shipping density maps:

Attachment 90178

Attachment 90179

You may be able to see what I meant about 50S. And why one would want to take special care in Dock's part of the world.

The second map has a scale which suggests 240sq nm per ship (edit: no, that's not quite correct as the 1 degree square gets smaller toward the poles* - let's say more like an average of 180 sq nm per ship) for the second highest density measurement (15 ships per 1 degrees square). The highest density color has an unbounded top end, eg +20 ships per 1 degree square)

* a bit silly to use a unit of area that changes size! I wonder if they really meant 1 degree x 1 degree or if they actually used 60 nm x 60nm.
Thanks for the data, Evans. It is interesting note that even in the northern hemisphere, once you leave near-coastal waters, the density is approximately 0.3-1.8 ships per grid cell, or one ship every 3000 sq nm. This is comparable to my experience of seeing an average one or two ships within 10 miles in any direction per 200nm of travel. Note that even if no one is standing watch on either vessel, the chances of coming within 100' of another boat, assuming they average 20kts, are on the order of 1 in 10,000 per day. Assuming a collision would be fatal, and that otherwise the sailor might have lived another 30 years, each day spent without keeping any watch, assuming other vessels also didn't keep any watch, would shorten one's life expectancy by... one day.
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Old 23-10-2014, 12:22   #264
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Quote:
Originally Posted by s/v Beth View Post
Soloing is an extreme sport.
Soloing should only be done by a small percentage of sailors who can withstand the rigors.
Soloing is illegal.
Well, I agree with all but the last one. Too many good people out there soloing. I do think you need to really prepare and know what you are up against. The hitting something test works out for me:
I am usually 15 feet above the water cause I am in 6-8 foot swells and eye level is about 6-8 feet above water. My speed at night when soloing is 4 knots. The speed of the tankers around here is 12-16 knots. I am mostly concerned with
1. Large debry- at four knots I need them on my radar at three miles away- I set my digital radar up to detect breaking waves and crab pots at 3 miles out. It gave me false reading one time because it was picking up waterfowl!
2. Intercepting vessels- my AIS picks them up from 20 miles away. The fishing vessels are much more problematic but they generally see me and switch their AIS on when we are 1-2 miles away/ or they show up on radar.
Away, with all this I sleep comfortably in the cockpit for 25 minutes and then check watch for 5. Last close call I had was before I had radar and AIS....

It's relevant to this discussion that not all radars are created equal. The new digital ones like Furuno and the CW "broadband" ones from Navico have dramatically better target discrimination, which makes the guard zone alarms vastly more useful than they were in radars of yore.

On passage, I go sometimes days between false alarms, and my radar picks up objects as small as buoys (and even crab pots sometimes, or waterfowl, as in Newt's example).

This kind of technology practically eliminates any advantage of visual watchkeeping even on bright, clear days, much less at night.

Which is not to say that you shouldn't do visual watchkeeping; just that with really good radar, operated with sufficient skill, you become much less dependent on visual watchkeeping.
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Old 23-10-2014, 12:34   #265
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
It's all a matter of judgement, which I am not inclined to second-guess too much. My point was that it seems quite hypocritical to me to come down like a ton of bricks on singlehanders for taking 15 minute naps, when you are quite casually willing to go without radar, which is just as much a violation of Rule 5.

The legal and practical consequences are the same -- if nothing happens, it is unlikely you will have any problem. But if on the odd chance you are napping below, and your radar somehow misses some vessel which is not transmitting AIS and you have a collision, you are going to be blamed for it -- IF you survive.

The exact same thing with your radar. I trust you to know when it's appropriate to use it or not -- who am I to say otherwise? You are probably a much better mariner than I am. But if you make a mistake, and don't see that vessel -- and it is awfully easy not to see something, since the visual, human watch is subject to so many human factors -- and you have an accident, and your radar was off -- well, then, violation of Rule 5 will figure very large in the inquest -- IF you survive. Exactly like the case of the napping single-hander.


As to my specific practice of using radar:

In my opinion, the denser trafficked and more coastal the waters, the more important the human watch, and the less important the electronic one. I turn the radar off in harbors and in places like the Solent -- just power it down and put it to bed -- it's useless there where your horizon of awareness hardly extends beyond a couple of miles. In close quarters, collision avoidance is a much more spontaneous affair -- mostly just dodge out of the channel and let the ship go by.

In open water, and the further you get from shore, the less important is the visual watch and the more important is the electronic one. Your horizon of awareness needs to be much greater -- to 10 miles and desirably more, where it starts to be hard to see things with your eyes anyway -- where the waters are open, ships will be moving fast, and may not be keeping a perfect watch themselves. Here I put more and more emphasis on electronic means. Far out to see, I never turn off my radar, day or night, fair weather or foul, and I watch the radar screen more than the horizon. I become primarily a radar operator. That is because far out to sea, I don't want any vessel closer than 10 or 15 miles to me which I'm not aware of, and radar and AIS are the things for that. Out there, for me, the visual watch is just a safety net to catch anything which falls through the AIS and radar nets -- but nothing ever does.

That's the way I do it, FWIW, which does not mean that it's the right or the only way to do it.
I agree it's a matter of judgment but I'm pretty confident that most people can perceive the difference between continuing to use AIS as well as a visual lookout in clear weather, and also regularly using radar on a 15 minute schedule, versus being asleep and not even in the cockpit looking around no matter how much electronic equipment you have turned on or how many alarms you have set.

To be clear, we're talking about lookout while sailing, which means heeling unless you're on a cat or tri, and in typical offshore winds making your boat heel 15 degrees or so, that means your radar alarm is not much more than an electronic device contributing to a false sense of security except for straight ahead targets. But at sea, with most commercial or military vessels operating at many times our speed, potential collisions can come from any direction. If you mostly motor offshore or sail in light winds or have a self leveling mount, then I can see where having the radar alarms set would be a comforting thing that you can put some faith in, but on my boat (and many others), with my radar antenna fixed to the mast, operating the radar with nobody looking at it but with the alarm set while sailing is more of a waste of electricity and an annoyance than a useful tool I can depend on. So, with AIS operating and a visual lookout ongoing, on a clear day or night I see no need to operate radar constantly WHILE SAILING and I've never sailed with anyone else who did either. If you want to do it, it's your boat and it certainly doesn't violate any Colregs, but I do think it's pretty unusual on sailboats under sail to have their radar operating 24/7 in good weather.

FWIW, if the question had been about a radar watch while motoring, or sailing in limited visibility day or night, it sounds like my watch techniques would be very similar to yours for the same reasons.
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Old 23-10-2014, 12:37   #266
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

^^ Dock, Interesting info on the digital radars. Thanks. I had not heard such a clear comparison before of their performance. I have an old school radar, and the guard zone is quite effective, except in bad weather breaking waves will set it off.

Where I really go nuts in watchkeeping is a steady drizzle/fog. My radar mostly blanks out with speckles, and I can't see very far visually. So AIS is the last effective tool, but it will of course not see ice (nor the non-ais fishing boats). That's really stressful. Some folks heave-to in that situation. I never have. I understand their logic (less speed=less danger/damage), but I am usually in areas where longer at sea = more weather risk, and ice and fishing boats can still hit you even when hove-to.

Regarding atlantical's comment on commercial watch keeping - good to hear, but a bit different than my experience. I would say lobster boats are the worst watch keepers in the world. I have sailed by numerous steaming at 7kts, with radar turning but no-one in the bridge, everyone out smoking at the stern (not pulling traps). I would say the N Atlantic ship watch keeping standard is generally pretty good, but elsewhere no so - I remember a Brazilian coastal freighter steaming at 15kts with the watch asleep (or so I assume, because they seemed to only wake up after I hit their bridge with a mega watt spot light from pretty close up - something I only do as a last resort, and definitely after I had lite up my own sails)
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Old 23-10-2014, 12:53   #267
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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^^ Dock, Interesting info on the digital radars. Thanks. I had not heard such a clear comparison before of their performance. I have an old school radar, and the guard zone is quite effective, except in bad weather breaking waves will set it off.
The first priority for anyone who doesn't have it is a decent AIS transponder. But right after that -- modern radar. It is the t*ts. It makes a huge difference in your ability to be aware of other vessels or floating obstacles in a huge area -- a circle with radius 10 miles or more -- what is that, 60 square miles?

The cost is already trivial.

The Furuno digital radar is the best of the pulse radars.

The "broadband" radars are not exactly what you have heard about them, as I have learned. First of all, there is not nearly the problem with range you have heard. Range is more or less just like a 4kW normal pulse radar. Disappointingly, nor is the close-range target discrimination any better than a really good pulse radar.

So you pays your money and takes your choices. But any of these choices is a big leap forward from analogue, pulse radar, like my former Ray Pathfinder set.
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Old 23-10-2014, 13:00   #268
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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a circle with radius 10 miles or more -- what is that, 60 square miles?

Just to be an internet pedantic area = pi r^2 = 3.14 * 10^2 = 314 sq nm

The Furuno digital radar is the best of the pulse radars.

interesting, any comparison of the B&G (which I guess is rebranded simrad) vs the furuno? My current radar is furuno, but my instruments are B&G and I was thinking of going all B&G.
.......
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Old 23-10-2014, 13:45   #269
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

I just did 1437 mi mostly on the great circle route between North America and Europe and there was a lot of traffic, 4-6 vessels a day for most of the trip. Busy, but manageable. And since I prefer to use windvane steering, I keep close watch on anything with a CPA of less than 6-7 miles because the wind will sometimes shift around to close up your CPA before they are past. 50 south does look inviting with so little traffic. Atlantical, give it a try sometime. Stampi claims 20 minute naps are best, for me 30 works better, although if it gets really busy I will grab some fifteen minute naps as something is much better than nothing. Everybody is different,but I find for me it takes about three days to get in the groove. To really get the feel for it you need to be out at lest seven to ten days so you have a chance to get into a routine. Sailing is usually a lot less physically demanding than doing commando type work, mostly you just do a quick check of traffic and heading and lay down again with barely a thought if there is nothing that needs your attention. Sometimes it can take a long time to get a bit of rest, you just learn to deal with it. It is all about time management and prioritizing what must be done now and what can wait until you are done resting , if you allow yourself to get overtired and start missing alarms that is where you will have problems. Sleeping for hours and depending on your status as a sailing vessel to avoid collisions is nothing short of suicidal!
Radar is the sailors best friend it can sometimes see thing that you cannot. I tracked a target one night that was not moving and had no lights and within a mile could not see it even when I stepped outside the pilothouse with the binoculars. Getting curious, I altered course to pass very close and lit the big xenon spotlight at 1/4 mile (this was a commercial boat) and found a fishermans high flyer, nothing but a stick with a radar reflector, connected to miles of fishing line. Without radar, it was completely invisible at night.
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Old 23-10-2014, 13:51   #270
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.......
Thank you - I forgot the radical

To answer your other question: If you have B&G plotters, then the Navico radar is a no-brainer. Used by the US Navy for close in work. Cheap and good.
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