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Old 07-10-2014, 14:48   #46
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Re: Do you keep a constant lookout?

I struggled with this question a lot this summer during a 3000 mile trip across the North Sea and through the Baltic.

For most people, who did far more driving in cars before spending much time on watch at sea, it is hard to find the right pattern. Clearly at sea you rarely need the total unbroken concentration on the road ahead like you do behind the wheel of a car, but how much less? Once you stop gluing your eyes to the road, like we do on roads, where does your inattention end? I almost hit a great big channel buoy in North Brittany a couple of years ago due to a few minutes of inattention, which gave me such a wakeup call that I still have nightmares about being underway and keeping an adequate watch.

I prefer that someone keep a continuous watch ahead under most circumstances, subject to short toilet or coffee-fetching breaks. When I am on watch, even far out to sea, I tend to stand on my companionway ladder under the sprayhood and just look out ahead, and like that for hours at a time if there is nothing else which needs doing. But other sailors I've had as crew are often much laxer than that, not being too shy to sleep or even read books. I am not a dictatorial skipper, and try to let experienced sailors I have as crew work in their own way, but I draw the line at reading on watch.

On long passages far from land, the idea of keeping a continuous lookout ahead starts to erode in any case. Sailing through the Baltic with just two guys at one point, we really needed catnaps on watch sometimes, which I allowed him and myself under certain conditions. Those conditions were: no hazards for many miles, no shipping lanes, good weather, and alarms set for radar guard zone, AIS, and depth. Under those conditions, I decided that a scan every 15 minutes or so was probably enough, although it is a calculated risk that you won't encounter and run into some floating debris or small vessel which could have been avoided with a sharper watch. The radar and, especially, AIS alarms, make an enormous difference, but are not really a guarantee that you won't run into anything.

This is not possible in in shore waters, no matter how uncrowded, because of hazards, and -- crab pots. Which as a rule are not picked up by radar.

But further offshore, questions arise. I don't have any answers that I am confident in.
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Old 07-10-2014, 15:02   #47
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Re: Do you keep a constant lookout?

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All this worry about "big ships" running you down... With the advent of inexpensive AIS receivers (or better yet transceivers) that has become a very small risk for the voyager, whether far at sea or coastal. Yes, I know that some have reported encountering vessels which SHOULD have been broadcasting AIS that were not, but I have yet to experience this, and we spend quite a bit of time at sea. Big ships are the least of my watchkeeping worries these days.

But in coastal waters, commercial fishermen don't broadcast AIS, and often behave in ways that are inexplicable to yotties, with sudden course changes, etc, and very often are not keeping any sort of watch themselves. We have had some exciting moments with them over the years, despite being on active watch... thus they are on my worry list. And in some ways worse are the small "tinnies" with weekend anglers that litter the waters inside say 10-20 miles from the coast. Often unlit, they can simply disappear in the troughs between ocean swells, and be quite hard to spot. Running into them is unlikely to hurt your boat much, but will surely cause a lot of strife! So, a nearly constant watch is needed when in these areas. This does not mean literally constant, but a better look around on a few minutes apart schedule... not every fifteen or twenty minutes.

A final worry is (gasp) other cruising yachts. We have been around a few such collisions over the years, and they are often the result of folks on reciprocal courses using the same set of waypoints garnered from some cruising guide or other. And there are still a few folks who don't light their yacht at night. We have encountered such at sea, and have wished for a very loud airhorn or a cannon... something to shake their complacency rudely. They shame us all...

So, don't worry, be happy... but keep a reasonable watch depending upon your situation.

Jim
this is my experience too. (Little experience I've had so far in our infamous Bass Strait). My Ais is very good in picking up all commercial boats including commercial fishing boats. But within ten miles of the head of the river recreational fishing boats become something to watch out for. And as much as its stupid for them to come out that far I've had a small half cabin zim past me at the 8 mile mark on a nice day.

Big ships are plenty but all of the broadcast their AIS.

Last December when coming back home doing an over nighter, I came up to do one of my 20 min obs and no more than a few hundred meters away I caught site of the light of a mast. I should have been able to pick up the green but given it was only the white bouncing around I worked out he was heading to Deal Island where we had departed from. I tried to hail it on radio but no one responded. After that experience I've decided that 20 min watches in the area is too much.

I'm even more cautious 'inside the river', it's amazing how many recreational boaters don't know the most basic of water rules and at night doing a 7 hour up or down the river, I will almost always in the summer come across someone not running ANY lights at all.
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Old 07-10-2014, 15:10   #48
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Re: Do you keep a constant lookout?

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Hmm... what sort of watch keeping on the boats part could have avoided that?

Jim
I've had a nuke slide under me while sailing. I was tacking back and forth across the sound in front of Seattle and crossed over from Bremerton towards West point. My depthsounder, which had been reading an irregular bottom at 370 feet, suddenly read a smooth surface 60 feet down. Thinking it was an error, I reset it with the same result. Thinking it was a pronounced thermal inversion, I kept a close eye on it and continued on my way. Then as sudden as it was there, it was gone. I got within a couple hundred feet of West point and tacked back. There right where I had been was a nuke, going into port at Bremerton. I could almost see the crew laughing...
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Old 07-10-2014, 15:41   #49
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Re: Do you keep a constant lookout?

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Bet that would look interesting on a fish finder
Sailor, what's that banging sound i keep hearing?
Captain, some guy with a fishing rod in a tinny is hitting the hull with a wooden club shouting "Sure caught me a big 'un!"
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Old 07-10-2014, 16:10   #50
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Re: Do you keep a constant lookout?

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A good response thanks. But, excuse my lack of experience, but what container ship travels at 30 knots or even close to that? Can you name some.

I've known of passenger ferries that do that, but nothing so big. The armed forces patrol ships?
Fast cat ferries move at 40 to 45 knots. I think those were invented in and are made in Australia, by the way, and are in wide use around the world.

Very large container ships used to routinely move at 30 knots. As someone said, because of fuel costs, this has become much rarer, but I encounter them sometimes in the English Channel.

The good news is that ships moving at such speeds tend to do all of the collision avoidance themselves, so you sometimes don't even notice them. The fast cats just bounce through, dodging this way and that. You do want to be broadcasting AIS, however, for them to take you seriously as something to avoid.
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Old 07-10-2014, 16:58   #51
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

I have never seen a container ship at 30 knots or anything near it. (including up the Gulf of Aden. The pirate attack on the ship we saw was going flat out at 25 knots and that was a Meresk container ship unladen)

The only sips that go that speed are cruise liners and not on their inter island hops. The QEII used to do New York, Panama, Hawaii, Sydney in 31 days... Doing 31 knots... But everything else is much slower. Occasionally you will get an MSC container ship late for a shedule go at 20 or even 22 but their usual speed is 14 aprox... (Yes they can go faster, but usually). Most other ships go slower, Bulkers about 12 knots, tankers similar. Even naval ships on ocean patrol go slow. If they do their 30 kots they have to go hoe to refuel tonight.

High speed ferries have strobes on them, but they are just running close to the coast or island hopping, they are never out to sea. And their paths are normally maked on the chart.


Someone posted a MarineTraffic.com link to San Francisco... I couldnt find a ship going 20, but there was one doing 19.

Yes, as I said some ships CAN go 20 or 25, but USUALLY they don't. Halve it.

One of the places ships do tend to go a bit faster is traffic separation schemes. I dunno why, maybe its like a highway that suddenly goes from one lane to two everyone steps on the gas inexplicably.

Anyway, your own AIS will solve all the BS for the facts. And a bit of maths while you are doing along offshore passage will give you the probability of being run down in different senarios.

Also maths might give you the probability of your wife walking out on you when you insist she never reads a book on watch but her 4 hours are to be glued to the horizon. no wonder there are so many solo sailors! Its not the women... Its the irrational men!
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Old 07-10-2014, 17:59   #52
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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no wonder there are so many solo sailors! Its not the women... Its the irrational men!
Crikeys, Mark! While I agree with you on this, you ARE NOT supposed to say such things. You will be drummed out of the Blokes United association.

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Old 07-10-2014, 19:54   #53
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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I have never seen a container ship at 30 knots or anything near it. (including up the Gulf of Aden. The pirate attack on the ship we saw was going flat out at 25 knots and that was a Meresk container ship unladen)

The only sips that go that speed are cruise liners and not on their inter island hops. The QEII used to do New York, Panama, Hawaii, Sydney in 31 days... Doing 31 knots... But everything else is much slower. Occasionally you will get an MSC container ship late for a shedule go at 20 or even 22 but their usual speed is 14 aprox... (Yes they can go faster, but usually). Most other ships go slower, Bulkers about 12 knots, tankers similar. Even naval ships on ocean patrol go slow. If they do their 30 kots they have to go hoe to refuel tonight.

High speed ferries have strobes on them, but they are just running close to the coast or island hopping, they are never out to sea. And their paths are normally maked on the chart.


Someone posted a MarineTraffic.com link to San Francisco... I couldnt find a ship going 20, but there was one doing 19.

Yes, as I said some ships CAN go 20 or 25, but USUALLY they don't. Halve it.

One of the places ships do tend to go a bit faster is traffic separation schemes. I dunno why, maybe its like a highway that suddenly goes from one lane to two everyone steps on the gas inexplicably.

Anyway, your own AIS will solve all the BS for the facts. And a bit of maths while you are doing along offshore passage will give you the probability of being run down in different senarios.

Also maths might give you the probability of your wife walking out on you when you insist she never reads a book on watch but her 4 hours are to be glued to the horizon. no wonder there are so many solo sailors! Its not the women... Its the irrational men!
Yes, thanks Mark, that's what I was seeing looking at what traffic is available.

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Old 07-10-2014, 20:23   #54
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Hey Mark, man up a bit or ya will lose ya mancard.
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Old 07-10-2014, 20:26   #55
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

I singlehand offshore so I stay awake the first 18 hours or so, then I check the radar and the AIS and cat nap with alarms set for one half hour intervals. I find that any odd noise wakes me instantly. I sleep a total of two hours in darkness and a few more hours in daylight, all in half hour intervals.
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Old 07-10-2014, 22:24   #56
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Offshore (not coastal) I think single handers or small crews are better off doing their extra ZZZs at night, than during the day. On a dark ocean, any light will attract attention much easier than a white hull and sails in a choppy sea. My own cruising boats were always with little or no electronics, but my next boat (whatever that may be) will definitely have ASI and a radar with alarm zones, even if I only turn the electron sucking device on when a lookout isnt effective (fog or sleepy skipper). Old dogs can learn new tricks. _____Grant.
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Old 08-10-2014, 02:16   #57
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Grant, et al,

The singlehander can always use the anchor light at night for the ZZZZ's, and most of the other vessels will avoid him or her safely. Fishermen, not so, as they are blinded by their lights. Another danger closer inshore, rather than completely offshore, that the singlehander has to find a way to avoid.....

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Old 08-10-2014, 11:00   #58
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

The report on Jessica Watson hitting a ship prior to her solo circumnavigation can be found at http://www.atsb.gov.au/media/1539485/mo-2009-008.pdf
I have come up with a theory in singlehanding that I call "the 3:00 am effect" I think it was acting in her case.
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Old 08-10-2014, 12:32   #59
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Somewhere around 0200 to 0400 you hit your low point in consciousness, reason why we used to plan attacks to occur during these hours, is that what your calling the 3 am effect?
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Old 08-10-2014, 12:42   #60
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

I wonder if we can watch horror movie in those hours to keep us awake. I am sure I will keep looking outside and behind to make sure no Zombies approaching.
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