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Old 05-03-2012, 19:29   #1
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Narrowly Avoided Collision with Motor Yacht

Hi All,

I thought I'd post this since it was a valuable " refresher " for me and significant enough to set some ground rules for night time/low visibility navigation in congested waters, rather than just things we " typically " do......

Yesterday myself and two crew were returning to Sausalito (San Francisco Bay) after a great weekend sail to Drake's Bay. We'd chosen a (rare) ideal weather window, and were rewarded with benign conditions (for winter in NorCal), and glassy water and 70 degree temps at anchor. For those interested, we got some great photos - goldengatesailing.com.

It was dark and we were motoring in the channel leading into Richardson Bay (were the strip of marinas are) at about 4 knots. Myself and one other crew were on deck preparing fenders/lines etc, and doing some last minute tidy up. We were intermittently glancing around, knowing that visibility is tough for the helmsman with people up on deck. All of sudden we noticed an approximately 35' motor yacht cutting directly across the channel on a semi-plane, likely making about 12+ knots. She was headed directly for our beam and was going to t-bone us! I grabbed the helm and was able to narrowly avoid them, while my crew shouted, waved and blasted our horn. They had not seen us at all (several people sitting beside the helmsman), and it took a few seconds for them to notice us even with all the noise we made. After the near miss they slowed down, and then proceeded to carry on and dock at what (I presumed to be) their next stop - another waterfront bar.

Assumptions:

1) Likely drunk - it had been exceptionally warm, and they were coming from the direction of a very popular stop on the drunker boater party circuit.

2) Alsager's nav lights likely blended into the city background - and perhaps the skipper of the motor yacht was not accustomed to looking for them....?

New protocol, no exceptions.....except of course when I singlehand

1) Dedicated lookout on the bow...no helping to prepare lines, tie fenders etc etc.

2) Max speed 3 knots.

3) In addition to nav lights, I'm going to run both my spreader and radar pole (installed today) flood/spot lights, which illuminate my entire boat and are extremely bright. The theory being that I will be much more visible in general, especially to the " mariners " out there who have no idea how to read nav lights (and those that do can still clearly discern them). I've noticed that commercial fisherman tend to run theirs all of the time, even when they are not fishing..and they are the most visible small boats on the water. In open/blue water I'll stick with nav lights only.

Any insights?

Cheers.

Evan
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Old 05-03-2012, 19:53   #2
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Sounds like he was the stand on vessel?
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Old 05-03-2012, 19:54   #3
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Re: Narrowly avoided collision with motor yacht.

Don't run so many lights that you effectively disrupt your own night vision.
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Old 05-03-2012, 20:00   #4
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Re: Narrowly avoided collision with motor yacht.

Always better to be seen !! Run em ALL!! this old man even runs more them the law requires even on blue water !! most everyone whos been at it a while have almost been run over !! some have been t-boned !! better to be seen even if its just the coasties who see ya !!!
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Old 05-03-2012, 20:54   #5
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Re: Narrowly avoided collision with motor yacht.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Astrid View Post
Don't run so many lights that you effectively disrupt your own night vision.
We run only red cabin/headlamps lights when underway. The spot lights I'm referring to are not in our field of vision.
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Old 05-03-2012, 21:07   #6
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Re: Narrowly avoided collision with motor yacht.

In particular situations even the most well lit boats will be hard to see. One night quite a few years ago I was entering the mouth of the river in my fishing dinghy
and gave myself a real scare when all of a sudden I found myself almost on top of a fishing trawler that was heading seawards. The scary thing is that it had all lights, including multiple deck flood lights, blazing away. The reason I hadn't noticed it sooner was because its' lights were totally camouflaged by the lights of the town behind it. Made me realise that it always pays to be on guard and err on the side of caution either approaching a lit shoreline or when between an approaching vessel and shore lights.
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Old 05-03-2012, 21:08   #7
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Re: Narrowly avoided collision with motor yacht.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ex-Calif View Post
Sounds like he was the stand on vessel?
Correct, but operating at a speed well outside of what would reasonably considered to be safe, and the other vessel made no effort whatsoever to avoid the collision. He was moving so quickly that we had a hard time evading him.

Check out Rule 6 (a) re " safe speed " and Rules 2(a) re " good seamanship " and 2(b) general prudential - whatever you can do to avoid a collision you must, and rules must not be literally, blindly followed into a collision.
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Old 05-03-2012, 21:13   #8
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Re: Narrowly avoided collision with motor yacht.

Quote:
"All of sudden we noticed an approximately 35' motor yacht cutting directly across the channel on a semi-plane, likely making about 12+ knots. She was headed directly for our beam and was going to t-bone us!"
Was the other vessel on your port or starboard beam? Crucial info you are leaving out! If starboard, you were the 'give way' vessel.... since you were motoring.

Was visibility restricted due to fog or mist? Otherwise, there is no such thing as "all of a sudden" because your helmsman should be keeping 'proper lookout'. And if visibility was restricted, the helmsman should be constantly scanning 360 degrees with his/her eyes and really listening hard for the engines of other vessels.

I also don't agree with turning on every deck light available. As Astrid mentioned, that will only interfere with your night vision but also possibly confuse another vessel because your 'bright' deck lights could overpower the luminosity of your navigation lights (port/starboard side lights, stern light & steaming light). You were displaying your steaming light, weren't you?

It seems from your description that the other vessel was oblivious possibly due to intoxication - all the more reason to really keep your eyes open on a dark winters night with background city lights...
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Old 05-03-2012, 21:26   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EvanStolze

Correct, but operating at a speed well outside of what would reasonably considered to be safe, and the other vessel made no effort whatsoever to avoid the collision. He was moving so quickly that we had a hard time evading him.

Check out Rule 6 (a) re " safe speed " and Rules 2(a) re " good seamanship " and 2(b) general prudential - whatever you can do to avoid a collision you must, and rules must not be literally, blindly followed into a collision.
I think there is also a 5kt speed posted in that channel.

Good to keep yur eyes on a swivel. Glad you missed each other.

However as the give way vessel, flashing lights, waving arms and blasting horns doesn't seem like the right drill. Perhaps he was going too fast especially if he was in the channel at that speed. Would have been an interesting court case.

I had a guy coming out on the wrong side of that channel last summer and had to evade. Totally clueless...
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Old 05-03-2012, 21:28   #10
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Re: Narrowly avoided collision with motor yacht.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ex-Calif View Post
Sounds like he was the stand on vessel?
Kind of sounds like it.

Crossing situation, two power driven vessels, and depends whom was to port of whom.

Since the thread starter is asking for thoughts:

- since you didn't mention the direction the vessel was crossing I'm guessing you're not familiar with crossing rules.
- turning on all your lights is a bad idea and the coast guard routinely tells sport fishers and dive boats (I work on both) to turn off their non navigation lights that interfere with other vessels identifying proper lights.
- identifying the speed of another vessel is nearly impossible in conditions like that without taking bearings or having radar tell you what it is.
- "blasting your horn" doesn't mean anything to me

It sounds like the other boat was acting stupid, fair enough. But your solutions (to me) don't seem to be all that practical and turn you into another floating circus that decides to implement their own version of the rules because you think you have a better system figured out than the colregs, which really isn't the case.

Additionally, fire your lookout or have him stand around with a boat pole or something else non critical. The helmsman and/or lookout should be craning their necks around and staring into the inky black constantly.

Sorry to be a jerk about it, but that's my $0.02. I don't want to run across some boat with all its lights on "blasting" its horn and I get to figure out what it is you're trying to do.
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Old 05-03-2012, 21:32   #11
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Re: Narrowly avoided collision with motor yacht.

Agreed - see my prior response for clarification, and my first post.

1) Dedicated lookout on the bow...

There are all sorts of things which can obscure the helmsman's vision, especially bodies on deck. I am not trying to absolve myself of responsibility - quite the contrary.

But in this case, it was obvious that they were going way too fast given the darkness and the fact that 1) they were crossing a channel filled with boats returning to harbor at 90 degrees and 2) there were bright city lights as a backdrop.

If you can't see well in a high traffic area, you certainly shouldn't be blazing blindly through it. Speed was the main factor, and the fact that they were likely looking well in front of their path (at the dock) rather than at what was nearer to them as well.
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Old 05-03-2012, 21:36   #12
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Re: Narrowly avoided collision with motor yacht.

I'm with Bob and Connie, do it right . But I stay at Pirates' Cove in Alabama and almost get run down by drunks at night all the damn time. Come see us ! Ha !
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Old 05-03-2012, 21:36   #13
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Re: Narrowly avoided collision with motor yacht.

If this crap keeps up the government will find a way to install traffic lights on the water and the coastie will become a revenue positive entity by writing tickets.
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Old 05-03-2012, 21:52   #14
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Re: Narrowly avoided collision with motor yacht.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post
Kind of sounds like it.

Crossing situation, two power driven vessels, and depends whom was to port of whom.

Since the thread starter is asking for thoughts:

- since you didn't mention the direction the vessel was crossing I'm guessing you're not familiar with crossing rules.
- turning on all your lights is a bad idea and the coast guard routinely tells sport fishers and dive boats (I work on both) to turn off their non navigation lights that interfere with other vessels identifying proper lights.
- identifying the speed of another vessel is nearly impossible in conditions like that without taking bearings or having radar tell you what it is.
- "blasting your horn" doesn't mean anything to me

It sounds like the other boat was acting stupid, fair enough. But your solutions (to me) don't seem to be all that practical and turn you into another floating circus that decides to implement their own version of the rules because you think you have a better system figured out than the colregs, which really isn't the case.

Additionally, fire your lookout or have him stand around with a boat pole or something else non critical. The helmsman and/or lookout should be craning their necks around and staring into the inky black constantly.

Sorry to be a jerk about it, but that's my $0.02. I don't want to run across some boat with all its lights on "blasting" its horn and I get to figure out what it is you're trying to do.
It appears you've either 1) not read all of my clarifying comments/the whole thread or 2) chosen to disregard them. Perhaps you wrote your comments before the new posts hit? I'm fully aware of the Colregs and abide by them, and have always chosen to limit lighting to what is specified - as I was last night. I've done plenty of blue water sailing, and have been annoyed when I couldn't make out nav lights on account of a ship being lit up like a circus. However, last night made me think about near shore situations with a lot of background lighting. In these instance, I think I'll make myself as visible as possible - my nav lights are clearly visible and distinctive, so I am not trading one for the other as you imply I am suggesting, nor violating Rule 20 (b).

Perhaps additional lighting would have made no difference at all. Again, the main factor was speed - lack of common sense. Posted limit is 5 knots, and I don't know about you, but it's quite obvious to me when a boat is far exceeding that. Perhaps messing around in boats for 30+ years is worth something...
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Old 05-03-2012, 22:27   #15
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Re: Narrowly avoided collision with motor yacht.

At night I have a million candle power spot plugged into the cockpit. I've had your scenario. Seems stink potters are a magnet for some reason...parking lot mentality. If I see a bow to beam bearing, I shine the light on the sail. If he still will not alter, I blast hime with the light for a second or two.
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