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Old 12-05-2006, 08:08   #1
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FOG SOP

I'm looking for any advise about operating in fog.

Radio procedures?
What is considered a safe speed?
What do you do if you are in an area of lobster pots?

Our boat is equipped with GPS, radar, VHF, electric fog horn, and both paper and electronic charts.

We will be in the southern Maine area.


Thanks,
John
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Old 13-05-2006, 09:04   #2
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The Nav Rules answer most of your questions. Sound a fog signal and listen for them (if under power, kill your engine now and then and just listen). Safe speed isn't a particular number, depends on many factors--could be "zero", or bare steerage way or more, depending on conditions, and reduce your speed to the bare minumum if you hear a signal (or pick up a radar contact) ahead. Put your position on the radio periodically (but if you talk to anyone, switch away from channel 16), and listen carefully, but recognize that the other guy may not be listening and may not have radar. Remember that the right-of-way rules are for vessels in visual sight of each other, so there's technically no "I'm on starboard" in fog.

Know the limitations of radar. Use your depth sounder, usually the closest land is straight down.

Just be careful, fog's like sailing on a dark night where no one has lights showing, and worse.

Lobster pots? They're a pain, fog or no fog. Don't know what you can do differently about them in fog.

Southern Maine's beautiful, but yeah, there's fog. Just be careful, and don't be afraid to spend the morning at anchor til it burns off.
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Old 13-05-2006, 11:38   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jemsea
I'm looking for any advise about operating in fog.

We will be in the southern Maine area.


Thanks,
John
John,

What section of southern Maine?

If you've spent much time on that section of coast, you are probably familiar with the type of advection fog that is common to the Maine coast. It is formed when warm, moist air moves over cold waters. It is not the type of fog that necessarily burns off as the day progresses (such as radiation fog).

Fog on the Maine coast can come and go in an instant. One minute, clear blue with unrestricted visibility, the next minute, difficult to see past the bow.

You should never let yourself become complacent about keeping track of your position when navigating the Maine coast, as the curtain of Maine fog can fall at any time. You can be piloting along with all landmarks and obstacles in plain view only to have them suddenly disappear when the fog moves in. At that moment, you'll need to know precisely where you are as there are perhaps more islands, rocks, or other hazards on the nearshore Maine coast than anywhere in U.S. coastal waters. (Thank the glaciers of the last ice age for what we refer to as "the drowned coast".)

Given the navigational tools you have aboard, I'm going to assume that the "where" is not the real issue, but that you are most concerned about operating in the blind with regard to other boats. My experience on the Maine coast is primarily in the Muscongus bay through Penobscott Bay area. Lots of lobstermen plying waters that they know like the back of their hand. They don't seem to slow much when the fog settles in. The up side is that their diesel inboards tend to be very loud. In addition to radar, keeping your own noise level down and keeping an ear to the water will give you the best warning. Admittedly, it is very unnerving to hear a loud diesel powered lobster boat moving toward you at high speed in the fog. They can suddenly emerge from the white veil within a few boat lengths of your own position. Your radar (and theirs) will be the best tools for keeping watch on their approach.

As for lobster pots, your best bet might be to stick to the main travel channels or further off shore for passagemaking. If you can't do that, you'll need to be aware of how the wind and current are playing on the pot warps. In downeast Maine, with large tidal fluctuations and strong currents, a smaller toggle buoy is used, typically 20 or 30 feet from the pick-up buoy. You do not want to pass between the toggle buoy and the larger pick-up buoy.

If you are suddenly unable to avoid a buoy, put the engine in neutral before passing over it (if motoring). Some folks that cruise the area install line cutters on their prop shaft. Having the shaft wrapped and engine stalled by a pot warp can put a boat in a dangerous situation. You should have a mask and knife aboard should you need to go over the side and cut the prop free.

Of course, some hull/keel/prop configurations are more vulnerable to tangling with warps than others. Those cruising with full keels that have their props mounted in a cutout between keel and rudder will be least likely to have problems. Boats with rudders that are not protected by a skeg can have real problems with pot warps snagging in the joint between rudder and hull.
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Old 13-05-2006, 11:51   #4
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Sailing in Fog:

Know where you are at all times, and be prepared to maintain an accurate Dead Reckoning position.

Safe Speed:
Rule 19 of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea states: ‘Every vessel shall proceed at a safe speed adapted to the prevailing circumstances,’ and ‘a power-driven vessel shall have her engines ready for immediate manoeuvre.’ Ideally, a yacht that is sailing in fog should have the engine warmed up and ready to go. You should never turn your engine off to listen for fog signals - your engines must be ready for immediate maneuvering. Send someone to the bow to listen and act as your lookout (another requirement).
Since the Rules state that you proceed at a SAFE SPEED (it is your judgment call), any collision is prima facie evidence that it was NOT a safe speed, and the admiralty lawyers may have their way with you.

Sound Signals:
All vessels are required to use a sound signal during periods of fog, heavy rain, or other conditions of reduced visibility.
If your boat is over 40 feet you must have a whistle and a bell. Under 40 feet, boats are not required to have a whistle and bell but they need to be able to make an efficient sound which sounds like a whistle or a bell.

(A short blast is one second; a prolonged blast is four to six seconds)

Sailboats under sail alone - one prolonged plus two short blasts at intervals of not more than two minutes

Note: when a sailboat is making way under power, it is considered a power driven vessel

Powerboat Making Way - one prolonged blast every two minutes
Powerboat Not Making Way (drifting but NOT disabled) - Two prolonged blasts every two minutes

Anchored Boat - a rapid ringing of the bell for five seconds every minute.

VHF Radio Announcement:
"Securite, securite.(pronounced 'saycuritay') - This is the sailing vessel “Whatever” entering “some” harbor, currently in position (give position) on a heading of (give heading) motoring/sailing at a speed of 7 knots. This is “Whatever” standing by on channel 16 for all concerned or conflicting traffic."

As Kevin Rose indicated Advection Fog, as common along the New England coast, is created by warm water moist air moving over cold water. As the air cools it can no longer hold as much moisture, and condensation creates the tiny water droplets (fog). The prevailing summer Sou’Westerly wind picks up its moisture over the Gulf Stream and brings it over the cold coastal waters.
A good high pressure with strong westerly or northwesterly winds will clear the fog, and give you a nice clear blue sky.
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Old 13-05-2006, 15:46   #5
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Originally Posted by GordMay
Sailing in Fog:
Sound Signals:
All vessels are required to use a sound signal during periods of fog, heavy rain, or other conditions of reduced visibility.
Gord,

I can't help but note the difference between what is required and what actually happens. I've never heard a Maine lobsterman use a "sound signal". The only sound you'll hear from them is the roar of the unmuffled diesel roaring at you through the fog. (For a real earful, you should check out the annual lobsterboat drag races.)

I don't worry about the lobstermen too much, though, as they tend to navigate on a sixth sense that is ingrained after many lifetimes on their native waters. It's the less experienced recreational boaters that have created my most anxious moments. One man, in particular, was so inept that I can't help but remember what a local lobsterman had to say about him. [insert heavy Maine accent] "The last thing I'd like to see of him are the heels of his boots after I kick him off the dock."

The up-side is that the vast majority of the boats on Maine waters east of Casco Bay (Portland area) are working boats with experienced captains.
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Old 13-05-2006, 17:18   #6
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Thanks to all for the replies.

One of the reasons for my post was just what Raven noted...The differences between what is required and what really takes place.

I have the books and am reading and re-reading all the rules but think it might help listening to people that have been there. I also intend to print this thread and have it handy at the nav station so I can re-read it too.

Since this is a shakedown cruise in a "new to us boat" in an area where we've not been before I'm all ears to any advice....Thanks Guys!

John
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Old 16-05-2006, 11:42   #7
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I'd like to interject on one point. Everything else was covered well. Just be vigilant, know where you are at all times, and watch cross currents. Your heading might need to be at quite an angle to get where you want to go.

The point I'd like to make is that you just need to keep an eye out for the lobster pots. Even in fog, you can spot them in time to make a slight course alteration to the "side the stick points to." Once you have a few hours at the helm going through them, you'll find it's second nature to steer around them when you encounter them.

They're usually grouped in the best lobstering areas, so you'll have a bunch for an hour, then none for hours.

I 2nd the shifting into neutral comment. If you miss one, and see it at the last second, shift into neutral and watch for it to pop up aft of the boat. If it doesn't, you're snagged.

Many sailors I know (local Maine sailors) do their best to avoid them under sail, but don't worry much about running over one while under sail. They rarely get caught up while you are sailing - just motoring.

I've said it before, but I'd advise against the line cutters. Makes it too easy for you to take the livelyhood away from a guy who makes a very small amount of money and works extremely hard to do so. The line cutting spurs allow you to relax and not pay attention... just run them over and "snip snip." It's not the way of the locals, and they'll look down on you for having these. Plus, with all the heightened alert you will have for lobster pots, you just might stay more alert for navigation purposes.

It's a beautiful cruising ground. Enjoy it. If it's thick as pea soup out there, stay in town an extra day.
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Old 16-05-2006, 12:28   #8
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Thanks Sean...No line cutters on our boat just a couple of nervous sailors new to the area and its conditions.
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Old 16-05-2006, 13:30   #9
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Sorry... didn't mean to point that line cutter tirade at you. It was more of a general tirade.

It's built in because I'm from that area.
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Old 16-05-2006, 13:55   #10
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Actually we have talked it over and decided we may put on a line cutter once we head for the Caribbean. And then only to deal with stray nets offshore but we are against line cutters in general for lobster/fish traps that someone is trying to make a living with.

We would really like to make friends, have a minimum of maritime rodeos, and in general enjoy our visit to Maine.
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