I don't mind fog and actually enjoy it. But for many years I was a commercial
lobsterman and you fish
in all weather
. If we did not fish
in the fog in coastal Maine or NH we'd be out of business...
What I don't like is the change in behavior on the water
by people who really have no clue about navigation
in the fog and who blindly follow an electronic plotter while not monitoring VHF
16, while not using fog signals, while not using nav lights, while not hoisting a reflector etc....
I've seen more scary stuff in the last 10 years than in the previous 30.. I can remember cruising Maine well before radar on pleasure boats and long before even Loran
. I can remember one trip where we never saw anything for about a week. We still had fun, though nothing ever dried out...
Ok this is going to be a little bit of a frustration rant but mostly at folks who probably do not participate in these forums
anyway.. I'm sure you guys don't behave like this..
A few summers ago we had a rather foggy July cruise, even for Maine standards, and IMHO the growth of the GPS
plotter is causing some rather inflated man jewels, (brass balls), on the water
. No, make that big reckless man jewells. I took notes on that trip of some of the sheer stupidity we witnessed...
As one who grew up navigating in the fog, before the advent of GPS
plotters, and also one who spent thousands of hours working the foggy waters of the North East as a commercial
lobsterman & while fishing
commercially for Blue Fin Tuna, I am alarmed at the new quality & quantity of boaters who are willing to venture out in this stuff, totally ill prepared, being guided by nothing more than blind faith and a GPS screen
Thick fog deserves RESPECT and you need to use some common sense when out in the soup.
Here's a list of some things I witnessed, not just once, but many times over just one week, in visibilities from 70 feet to about 400 feet.
Boat #1 -
Sailboat from MA in 100 feet of visibility = No running lights, no radar reflector, no radar, no fog signals/horn, boat not a good radar target & barely showing up about every third sweep, not monitoring VHF
16 or any of the standard channels.
Boat #2 -
Sea Ray from South Portland
doing 30+ knots in 150 feet of vis. Picked up at 1 mile out as a random sea clutter type of return, tracked it, and realized it was a vessel moving at a high rate of speed directly towards me. Made hard turn to stbd and Sea Ray
passed seconds later within 70 feet. Did not slow down, did not respond to VHF 09, 13, 16 or 72 hails. No fog horn, no radar, no running lights no radar reflector boat showed up like sea clutter at best. If my radar screen
was anywhere other than the helm
he might have run us down. Blind faith in the plotter at its best.
Boat #3 -
Center console from the mid coast doing close to 30 knots and heading straight for a nun. This is what all the "inexperienced in fog boaters" do in fog. Do yourself a favor and STAY AWAY FROM MARKS IN THE FOG! Set your course well proud of any widely used nav aids. All the "new bravado" guys with plotters & no radar head
straight for them. "Hey baby, see how cool this GPS thingy is, we almost hit that can!"
Heard on VHF 16 in an accent that was certainly not from the North East: "Billings Marine, Billings Marine this is the sailing vessel XXX." "This is Billings please switch and answer 09."
Still on 16. "Billings I just left your fuel dock but forgot to ask and wanted to know if the tide today is a port or a starboard tide."
A port or starboard tide??????? Even Billings was confused by that one.. Oh and the vis that day was 50-70 feet...
I could go on and on and on from just a short trip. Please don't get me wrong we did meet plenty experienced skippers of boats who were using proper fog etiquette, communications
, lights & signals but there seem to be more and more people who have NO CLUE how dangerous they really are to themselves and others.
If your one and only tool for navigation
in the fog is a plotter, please, please, please STAY PUT! You don't absolutely need radar, though more so today than in the 70's or 80's because inexperienced people did not go out in the fog as they do today, but you DO need some other items to communicate and let others know of your presence.
If you can afford a boat, and to risk your life and the life of others, in 100 foot visibility, you can certainly afford a VHF, a fog horn/signal, running lights and a radar reflector. Are these items too much to ask for? Apparently they are for many these days..
Things to consider, when in fog, to be a good boater and to be courteous to others.
= Buy one and use it, please.. Just because you may choose not to have radar does not mean you should choose to be invisible or nearly invisible to the rest of the world who may be trying to practice good collision
avoidance. While not perfect it is pretty rare that a boat with a reflector does not show up.
= Use it please, and by that I mean turn the darn thing on and monitor
VHF 16. PLEASE! We don't have your cell number on speed dial... it's the law to monitor
VHF 16 if your vessel is VHF equipped.
= When the visibility drops PLEASE USE THEM. They do help and can add another 50-100 feet of warning.
= At a minimum Wal*Mart sells sports air horns for $6.00. Please get one and use it.. Many VHF radios now have built in fog hailers. Hamilton Marine sells a fog relay to drive a horn for about $100.00... The stupidity of the whole thing is I had a boat owner from CT row over to me and asked why our boat was "sounding like a light house
" as we approached the harbor in the fog.... Umm, its called fog signals....??
Slow Down =
sailboat traveling at 6 knots is covering 10.1 feet per second. In 100 feet of visibility the collision
time to a fixed object is roughly 11 seconds from your first physical sighting. Now take two sailboats converging, each traveling at 6 knots, your collision time in 100 feet of visibility, from your first physical sighting, becomes just 5 seconds.
A power boat
traveling 30 knots, on a collision course, will collide with a sailboat doing six knots, at 100 feet of visibility, in under two seconds from the first sighting! You will NOT have enough reaction time to avoid a collision with a clown like this other than to have radar and already been tracking him. Think people don't go fast in the fog? Think again..
examples of what these reckless boaters look like:
There really is a boat here 100 feet off my stern. No radar, no reflector, no running lights, no horn signals and not even a VHF response. "Dumb dee dumb, sailing awayyyy, dumb dee dumb, doh', a boat, how'd that get there?"
Here's a radar shot of that boat when it was actually showing up. It's the red spec just above the 18 foot spot off my stbd stern quarter. The two targets ahead and to port and stbd were two J Boats traveling together both of which had reflectors when they went by. SOME BOATS JUST DO NOT SHOW UP ON RADAR!!! The guy behind me owns one!
1st class clown (see speed above), no radar, no lights, no horn signals, no reflector and also not showing up well, and not monitoring VHF!
For reference this is 400 feet of visibility (400 feet is generally fairly good vis for Maine fog):
And here's the screen shot with the cursor just over the closest radar image at 411 feet (upper left corner measures distance).:
It scares me how many people are just plain dangerous and have no clue they are being so reckless. If they succeed once they do it again only this time with a greater level of comfort and confidence.
Fog can be magical but it still deserves attention and respect. Please be careful...
Sorry for the rant but each year the idiocy we see in the fog just gets worse and worse....