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Old 27-06-2015, 12:16   #1
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Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

I was sailing from Kalmar, Sweden, to Visby, on Gotland, last month, and just after passing under the bridge over the Kalmarsund, I was surprised to get five blasts from an overtaking ship. This happened at 56N 41.6 and 16E 24.6.

I didn't really know what he wanted, but I dutifully held my course and speed while he overtook me -- I was under sail in light air sailing slowly, about 5 knots.

The helmsman (probably the skipper) waved at me as he passed.

I thought a long time about this. Why the five blasts?

I was minding my own business in the correct side of the channel. He was overtaking.

Did he think I should get out of the channel? Rule 9 requires me to "not impede" a vessel navigating in a narrow channel which can't navigate outside of it. Forcing a large vessel to maneuver around me to overtake might be considered "impeding", so maybe he interprets this to mean that I shouldn't be in the channel at all? But I had just passed through a narrow spot where I couldn't navigate outside the channel, either.

Or was he just warning me to let me know that he would overtake? But that should have been two long and two shorts, or two long and one short, according to Rule 34(c).

He did not seem irritated, judging by his cheerful wave as he passed.

So what was that all about? I regret now not having called him on the VHF.
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Old 27-06-2015, 13:16   #2
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Re: Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

Sounds like he was anticipating you doing something unwise and was apologetic and surprised when you didn't. Maybe he saw you make a quick motion in the cockpit and anticipated a gybe.

Maybe his last 11 times through the channel he had to stand on her in reverse to avoid missing a sailboat who altered across his pass.

Nothing makes a mariner as jumpy as being close to a sailboat because they have all had to take evasive actions so many times because the vast majority of sailors have no basic understanding of the ColRegs or basic instincts for self preservation.

I was sailing down the Bateau channel this afternoon which is quite narrow, with a current running. I was overtaken by two tour boats and crossed twice by a cable ferry. Cable ferries, no reaction.

However, the overtaking tour boats both gave me a very wide birth, I could feel their nervousness, but both smiled and waved when they made it safely passed.

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Old 27-06-2015, 13:30   #3
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Re: Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

Sometimes you've done nothing wrong and they were just too cautious.

I was north of a big ship anchorage years ago, sailing along on the same dying wind you described. I looked behind to find a ship I had sailed past a half an hour earlier had raised anchor and was overtaking me. I started the engine and moved out of his way. No horns.

Two months later I got a call from the local Coast Guard. The lieutenant asked if I'd impeded a ship on such-and-such date. I told him I'd have to go back and look in my log book to confirm or deny and would call him back. I did and he told me he'd have to kick it upstairs to his boss, and if they found me "guilty" they could take my boat!

I explained the details, and that "no horns" were exchanged.

Never did hear back from them. No news is good news...

Strange things happen.

Sometimes you'll never ever know.
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Old 27-06-2015, 14:14   #4
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Re: Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

Dockhead, did he have to alter course to overtake you? Were you as far as was practical over to the stbd side of the channel? Which side did he pass on? Was their any other traffic around going in the opposite direction?
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Old 27-06-2015, 14:17   #5
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Re: Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

If this was a recreational boat, I'm thinking he just honked - not intending to use any signal code at all - and the 5 honks were just coincidental.

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Old 27-06-2015, 14:42   #6
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Re: Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
If this was a recreational boat, I'm thinking he just honked - not intending to use any signal code at all - and the 5 honks were just coincidental.

Mark
Maybe he just had a ssssstutter?

On occasion I would find 'deep draft' MoWAFIs bolted to the centreline in the Melbourne River totally oblivious that a ship was coming up astern...used to wait until the moment was right and then give them one long blast.... didn't need five....concentrated their minds real quick.
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Old 27-06-2015, 15:12   #7
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Re: Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu Jackson View Post
Sometimes you've done nothing wrong and they were just too cautious.

I was north of a big ship anchorage years ago, sailing along on the same dying wind you described. I looked behind to find a ship I had sailed past a half an hour earlier had raised anchor and was overtaking me. I started the engine and moved out of his way. No horns.

Two months later I got a call from the local Coast Guard. The lieutenant asked if I'd impeded a ship on such-and-such date. I told him I'd have to go back and look in my log book to confirm or deny and would call him back. I did and he told me he'd have to kick it upstairs to his boss, and if they found me "guilty" they could take my boat!

I explained the details, and that "no horns" were exchanged.

Never did hear back from them. No news is good news...

Strange things happen.

Sometimes you'll never ever know.
Excuse me. Take your boat???? Was he serious? Is that even possible/legal? I've never heard of such except confiscating smuggling boats.

I'm afraid I might have responded to that comment with less tact than would be considered polite.
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Old 28-06-2015, 05:43   #8
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Re: Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

Quote:
Originally Posted by El Pinguino View Post
Dockhead, did he have to alter course to overtake you? Were you as far as was practical over to the stbd side of the channel? Which side did he pass on? Was their any other traffic around going in the opposite direction?
I don't know whether he altered course -- I guess probably yes, which means I was probably impeding him, but it's hard not to do in this situation, and a small alteration to overtake is not exactly a big imposition.

I was not as far over to stbd as I could have been. I would have moved over, but it was already risk of collision so I needed to hold course and speed.

There was no traffic from the other lane.
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Old 28-06-2015, 05:45   #9
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Re: Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

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Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
Excuse me. Take your boat???? Was he serious? Is that even possible/legal? I've never heard of such except confiscating smuggling boats.

I'm afraid I might have responded to that comment with less tact than would be considered polite.
Sounds pretty crazy. Anyone ever heard of a boat being confiscated for a COLREGS violation? Especially with no accident?

What country was this in?
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Old 28-06-2015, 06:05   #10
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Re: Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
I thought a long time about this. Why the five blasts?
Or was he just warning me to let me know that he would overtake? But that should have been two long and two shorts, or two long and one short, according to Rule 34(c).

He did not seem irritated, judging by his cheerful wave as he passed.

So what was that all about? I regret now not having called him on the VHF.

Rule 34(d)
Quote:
When vessels in sight of one another are approaching each other and from any cause either vessel fails to understand the intentions or actions of the other, or is in doubt whether sufficient action is being taken by the other to avoid collision, the vessel in doubt shall immediately indicate such doubt by giving at least five short and rapid blasts on the whistle
I bolded what I imagine the captain meant by his signal, but it could have been done in the colloquial sense as a "wake up" signal, just to make you aware that he was there, and you should stay out of his way.

As we've discussed before, my opinion is that he was not impeded if he could get past you without putting himself into danger. You've provided the perfect example of that in practice.
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Old 28-06-2015, 06:11   #11
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Re: Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

Remember 5 whistles isn't just the danger signal, he could just be in doubt of your intentions (rule 34 d ).
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Old 28-06-2015, 06:20   #12
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Re: Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

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Remember 5 whistles isn't just the danger signal, he could just be in doubt of your intentions (rule 34 d ).
5 whistles isn't a danger signal at all!
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Old 28-06-2015, 06:20   #13
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Re: Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

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Originally Posted by El Pinguino View Post
Maybe he just had a ssssstutter?
Don't be ridiculous, he's a professional ships Captain! 2 beeps at Dockhead, 2 beeps at the hot chic walking the canal side, and one long beep at the damn ships cat to get it off the Bridge!
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Old 28-06-2015, 06:23   #14
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Re: Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

In North America:
1 short blast (1 second) I want to pass you on my port side
2 short blasts I want to pass you on my starboard side
3 short blasts Engine is in reverse
5 short blasts Danger, or do not understand approaching boat's intentions

It seems a little more complicated in Europe.
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Old 28-06-2015, 06:27   #15
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Re: Sailing ALONG A Narrow Channel

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5 whistles isn't a danger signal at all!
5 whistles is described as the danger signal in 34 (a) (ii).
"If,however, from any cause, the vessel doubts the safety of the proposed maneuver, she shall sound the danger signal specified in paragraph (d) of this rule..."

34 (d) is 5 whistles.

This is the US inland rules but it's where it gets it's name from.
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