Poor watchkeeping on both vessels, indeed. Either one could have prevented this from happening.
The report made reference to a third mate, so this second mate was not the junior most deck
officer (as far as rank). I took the six-months with the license
to mean that he received his second mate's license
at that time - not that he was completely green. Nevertheless, very poor watchstanding on the Silver Yang.
However, there are some things about Jessica's operation which made me cringe, particularly these two statements:
This incident clearly demonstrates the conundrum that exists between long distance solo-sailing and the legal requirements of the COLREGS. Since it was not possible for the yacht‟s skipper to keep a watch by sight and hearing at all times, it was not possible for her to comply with the COLREGS.
...she was not meeting her obligation to keep a proper lookout at all times
and was, at times, placing her safety in the hands of others and relying on them to
maintain a proper lookout and give way to her vessel when necessary.
That is an incredibly selfish and dangerous stance to take and I'm glad that the ATSB made it clear that, in their view, if one can't maintain a watch by sight and hearing at all times
, one is by definition, not complying with the COLREGS. I don't care if you're soloing or you have 100 people onboard. If anyone cares to argue that, I could simply say, being analogous with Jessica's reasoning, that the Silver Yang was in perfect compliance with the COLREGS since they thought their size and low speed, combined with bright navigation
lights and a clear night meant that they could be lax with their watchkeeping. That argument is also false and solo sailors who believe that this kind of catnapping in coastal waters is acceptable, are also wrong, IMO.
Equally troubling is her failure to notice the Silver Yang within five minutes of the collision. Given the speeds and courses of the vessels and the fact that the Silver Yang was apparently already inside the 2 mile radar
guard zone when Jessica set it, that means that the ship was only maybe a mile or so away when she took her last look around the horizon. It's inexcusable to not notice a Panamax-sized ship at that range on a night like that, which was described as having some moonlight.
I don't get mad at having to dodge recreational traffic - it's part of the job, but the fact that they are much more likely to die in a collision than I am doesn't negate the fact that we have a whole career and livelihood on the line if we're involved in any sort of incident involving "negligence" (a subjective term).
I will say that I do have some
sympathy (not much) for the second mate who thought the light was further away than it was due to its apparent dimness because I have been in a similar situation. Back when I was a cadet, I remember approaching Charleston, SC in darkness with scattered rain squalls after an eastbound Atlantic crossing
and following another ship that was about four to six miles off our stbd bow on a parallel heading. We (the second mate, AB and myself) could see a single
white light along the same bearing as that ship on our radar
. As we went along, that white light suddenly turned brighter and became interspersed with a red light which promptly zipped across out bow, right to left. It was a small sport fisher
, well offshore
(50+ nm) and showing up extremely poor on radar, due to the rain and sea clutter. We had assumed
(there's that naughty word which came up numerous times in the report) that the light of the small boat was the stern light of the ship, but in reality the stern of the ship was well inside of a squall and out of our visual range. It was a lesson learned for me - both for my then-upcoming professional career and personal boating
. I run "one size up" in size/brightness on my own boat than what is required by law.
The report only makes reference to the fact that EPL was equipped with the legal
sidelights that were visible for at least one nautical mile. I can't stress enough how poor those small, 1nm rated navigation
lights are when viewed from the bridge of a ship. I wish there were more ways to allow people to see the view from a ship's bridge and just how insignificant small vessels appear to be. Through my own recreational sailing and boating
, I've been asked more than once about how to increase one's own presence to be more apparent to ships and, while there's little you can do about that in daylight, for at night the number one thing I always recommend are bigger and brighter navigation lights.
Now, as for how the 2/m confused the fixed
light of the EPL as a stationary buoy that was somehow maintaining the same relative bearing well of the bow as he was making way, I'll never know.