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Old 17-09-2012, 09:34   #1
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Freighters vs. Sailboats

Some time ago I created quite a heated discussion by stating that when it comes to freighters and sailboats the freighter actually had the right of way because of the freighter's lessened ability to maneuver. I got "ridden hard and put away wet" because of that statement, but because of my source (Coast Guard) I didn't change my statement. I then got called out for "not listening to people with more experience."

This quote is from SAIL magazine (p. 12), January 2012. I'll quote the pertinent parts, but the writer's point was that sailboats should have AIS. Here it is:

"I make my living s a senior officer aboard large container ships. Contrary to popular belief, we do not have the latest and greatest radars on board. On a clear, calm day, a 40 ft sailboat looks like a white speck more than few miles out. If I'm lucky, I can acquire and plot it when it's 5 miles out. Traveling at 25 knots, I cover 2.5 miles every six minutes, so even if I put the wheel hard over I would advance a half-mile before turning. If I threw the engine in reverse it would take 3 miles at full astern to stop.

"Take it from me at 12 stories up: AIS helps ships "see" pleasure craft. We'll see a pleasure craft's AIS signal 20 miles before physically sighting a vessel. For the sake of us all, get an AIS and get seen!"

This solidly supports my statement that large vessels, specifically freighters and cruise ships, do not really see sailboats well. By the time you're within five miles of such a boat, it may well be up to the sailboat to stay out of the freighter's way. CLEARLY a freighter has less maneuverability than a sailboat -- even one under sail.

Without AIS, that white spec they see from five miles out might be anything and won't necessarily look like a collision hazard to the bigger ship.

The Coast Guard said exactly the same thing at the talk I attended. So now I have two sources, although hearing it from the Coast Guard was enough for me personally.

The one over-arching rule, the one that trumps any section of the ColRegs that could be quoted here, is that one must do everything possible to avoid a collision, but the ColRegs also were written following some basic principles. One of them is that the less maneuverable ship/boat has the right of way. All the sections in CR stating who has the ROW in specific instances are based on those two principles: do everything possible to avoid a collision, and the most maneuverable vessel is to give right of way. In a channel, clearly a freighter has to stay in the channel, but they aren't always in channels.
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Old 17-09-2012, 10:01   #2
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Re: Freighters vs. sailboats

Interesting post Raku, I never realized you had been criticised on CF for stating that "freighters and cruise ships, do not really see sailboats well".

I agree whole heartedly that it is difficult for large ships to see small yachts and we must never forget this. And I agree about the AIS point but I am surprised though about the claim that most maneuverable vessel is to give right of way in all sections of the CRs regarding ROW. My understanding is somewhat different .
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Old 17-09-2012, 10:03   #3
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Re: Freighters vs. sailboats

Anybody, power or sail who challenges freighters, ferries, tankers, tugs is out of his mind. Even if a situation gives a sailboat the so called "right of way" which as I understand he does not have (each boat shall attempt to avoid a collision), why be right and dead?

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Old 17-09-2012, 10:05   #4
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Re: Freighters vs. sailboats

It is small comfort to know that you were the stand on vessel after getting run down by a freighter. Just get out of the way and all will be well.
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Old 17-09-2012, 10:06   #5
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Re: Freighters vs. sailboats

I had a USCG 100 Ton Masters license about 20 years ago.
I remember a biggie was that "smaller vessels shall stay clear of larger vessels" and for the life of me I can't remember where I read that. If it wasn't in the "Rules of the Road" or COLREGS it should be. All of the regs are pretty much based on the logic that the most maneuverable vesel should give way to the lesser maneuverable vessel. Whether you want to call it Right of Way or Stand on or whatever, it's all the same thing.
In a crossing situation I wouldn't expect a freighter or a luxery liner to have to change course or speed for a 16 ft. runabout because the runabout has the ROW.
I remember back then telling sailboaters, which I was one of them, that about the only thing they had the right of way over was a similar size/range power boat.
Sailors are famous for thinking they have the right of way over everyone.
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Old 17-09-2012, 10:12   #6
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Re: Freighters vs. sailboats

Lets be clear here, the CRs tell us which vessel should stand on and which vessel should manoeuvre unless it becomes clear that both vessels have to manoeuvre to avoid a collision. This gives everyone involved a predetermined certainly on how to act rather than second guessing what the other vessel might or might not do. It is not just simply a case of "right of way".
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Old 17-09-2012, 10:17   #7
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Re: Freighters vs. sailboats

You were/are 100% correct. ONLY for the wrong reason.

The freighter has the right of way because if you on a sailboat meet HIM.

1. YOU WILL LOSE EVERY TIME
2. HE MOST LIKELY WON'T EVEN NOTICE

What else is there to know?.

PS It's called SURVIVAL INSTINCT, folks... I got mine from 25 years of mc riding among the SUV crowd...

I know these statements may not be 100% AS THE LAW STATES.. Who cares?
Live by these rules and you may, well live...

Otherwise your next of kin can take the freighter company to court..Good luck with that...
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Old 17-09-2012, 10:17   #8
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Re: Freighters vs. sailboats

Oh dear
Wot carefully backs away from a thread where emotions overides rules.
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Old 17-09-2012, 10:18   #9
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Re: Freighters vs. sailboats

Raku, I sail in a commercial harbour with restricted entrances (Toronto). We have all manner of tall ship, booze cruisers, passenger ferries built in the '30s and shaped like shoeboxes, and the often elderly yacht club tenders that ferry people back and forth from the Toronto Island clubs. Lastly, we get occasional traffic from 700 foot concrete, sugar and bulk freighters; Toronto isn't a big shipping port, but we do have shoreside industry, and frequently see ocean-capable ships at anchor or dock.

Throw in kayakers, jetskis, canoeists (sometimes in 30 foot canoes, scullers, and everything from Optis to 75 foot ketches, and you've got a COLREGS nightmare. Plus two restricted channels!

So one must know COLREGS, but one must also understand exponents. One represents civics, the other physics and physics always wins. Sailing amongst proper huge ships is like removing the clip from a gun: even when you KNOW the gun is empty, the gun is always loaded. To assume there isn't one in the chamber that will kill you if you wave the thing around is analogous to assuming the frieghter can see you, can turn or can stop: it's ignoring what will not be ignored, the physics of the situation.

See: I have the latest E-charts and therefore do not need to stand a watch or listen for surf over the reef or hear the echo of my voice returning too soon from the rocky cliffs dead ahead. Because, you see, I have the latest e-charts!
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Old 17-09-2012, 10:26   #10
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Re: Freighters vs. sailboats

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wotname View Post
Lets be clear here, the CRs tell us which vessel should stand on and which vessel should manoeuvre ..... .....
Question: Does it tell us anything about size? We wouldn't be discussing this if everything was 'clear'. I don't have a copy of the CR's handy. As previously stated, there is a serious maneuverability problem with large vessels. Is it still written anywhere that the smaller more maneuverable boat surrender the ROW or never have had it in the first place because of size? It should not have to wait for the "if a collision is inevitable, then BOTH shall change course and speed......".
Like I said earlier, I remember it being writen somewhere back then , but cant remember where. Maybe is was in the preface to the COLREGS?
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Old 17-09-2012, 10:34   #11
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Re: Freighters vs. sailboats

We've had this discussion before, and I'm not sure that there is much to be gained from rehashing it. But since these threads are read by thousands of people, I think it's important that true information is injected in them somewhere.

First of all, a lot of nonsense can be avoided by simply reading the Colregs -- they are fairly clear and you don't have to be a lawyer to understand them. Here is just one place to find them: COLREGS - Boating Safety

A couple of further comments:

1. There is no such thing as "right of way" in the Colregs. The concept of "standing on" and "giving way" are somewhat different, and the difference is important. It is misleading to talk about "right of way", as if we were driving cars. The rules at sea are different from the rules on the road.

2. There is no such concept as a "more manueverable" and "less maneuverable" vessel in the Colregs. There are specifically defined situations where other vessels are supposed to keep clear of a vessel which is impaired in its ability to manuever and is giving the proper signals to indicate this. There are other rules that require us to keep out of the way of a vessel which is constrained by draft and navigating in a narrow channel, if we are not similarly constrained. But there is no rule that "a less manueverable vessel has the right of way" -- this is patently false. On the contrary, under the Colregs, less manueverable vessels are obligated to give way to more maneuverable vessels in a lot of different situations.

3. What is true, however, is that there is certainly a general principle of good seamanship and common sense, and doing whatever is required under the circumstances to avoid a collision, even if it means violating one of the other rules after a reasonable attempt has been made to follow it. And this certainly does require small pleasure boats to take early action to avoid getting into close quarters situations with large commercial vessels, where this is reasonably possible. It also means keeping in mind and taking account for the fact that a large commercial vessel might not see you. But this principle does not mean that the proper way to deal with encounters with large commercial vessels is to willy-nilly steer any which way in whatever direction seems away from them, throwing the Colregs overboard. This is, on the contrary, poor seamanship, contrary to all of the principles of the Colregs, and dangerous.

So to sum all this up -- yes, of course, small pleasure vessels should do everything reasonable to avoid encounters with large commercial vessels. In many places and circumstances, you can navigate in water too shallow for them and entirely avoid the problem in the first place, or heave to and wait for them to get by, or simply change course before there is any encounter. It is good seamanship and simple common sense to use the fact of your greater manueverability and shallower draft to stay out of their way.

However, sometimes it does happen that you cannot avoid a close quarters situation with a large commercial vessel. In such cases, you had damned well better understand what you are supposed to do -- are you the stand on vessel? Or the give way vessel? Are you supposed to turn to starboard? Are you supposed to hold your course and speed? Is he navigating in a narrow channel? Are you under sail? Does he see you? Is he showing signals of being impaired in manueverability? Do you know those signals? Is he towing something? You must know all of these things in order to deal safely with an encounter with a large commercial vessel.
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Old 17-09-2012, 10:35   #12
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Re: Freighters vs. sailboats

WTF! Why does anybody need a copy of COLREGS when facing a potential collision situation???? GET OUT OF HARMS WAY AND LIVE AWHILE LONGER!

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Old 17-09-2012, 10:40   #13
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Re: Freighters vs. sailboats

THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: TANKER VS. SAILBOAT GUESS WHO WON?

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Old 17-09-2012, 10:40   #14
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Re: Freighters vs. sailboats

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbates View Post
You were/are 100% correct. ONLY for the wrong reason.

The freighter has the right of way because if you on a sailboat meet HIM.

1. YOU WILL LOSE EVERY TIME
2. HE MOST LIKELY WON'T EVEN NOTICE

What else is there to know?.

PS It's called SURVIVAL INSTINCT, folks... I got mine from 25 years of mc riding among the SUV crowd...

I know these statements may not be 100% AS THE LAW STATES.. Who cares?
Live by these rules and you may, well live...

Otherwise your next of kin can take the freighter company to court..Good luck with that...
You're also right! But also for the wrong reason! The Colregs also say this. The Colregs do not allow you to stand on into a collision. If you are the stand-on vessel, you are obligated to hold course and speed and give the other vessel a chance to maneuver. But if he doesn't maneuver because he can't see you or is asleep at the switch or whatever, then you are obligated under the Colregs to maneuver yourself.

I say again, there is no such thing as any "right of way" under the Colregs. Being the stand-on vessel does not mean you have any kind of right of way. It means you are supposed to give the other vessel the chance to maneuver first to resolve the situation.

But your instincts are right -- stay away from them in the first place is exactly the right "first line of defense" against a collision.
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Old 17-09-2012, 10:49   #15
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Re: Freighters vs. sailboats

Quote:
Originally Posted by mbianka View Post
That happened right off Cowes, my boat's winter home. The tanker is making a sharp turn to starboard to avoid the Bramble Bank, on its way up into Southampton Water.

There are thousands of comments in the Internet about what an idiot that skipper was, but it is easy to call another sailor an idiot from your armchair. The fact is that he misjudged the very fast turn the tanker was making and got his sheets tangled trying to jibe out of the way and stalled out. Was he an idiot? I don't know -- all I can say is that it would have looked a lot different from where he was sitting. He was racing -- it was during Cowes Week -- and trying to get past in time to avoid having to heave-to.

There was no question about who was the stand-on vessel -- this is a restricted zone under full control of Southampton VTS where commercial vessels are highly constrained, and all non-commercial vessel are obligated to stay out of the way. It's actually quite a dangerous place, with hundreds of shipwrecks having occurred there over the centuries. The skipper certainly did not think he was the stand-on vessel -- he was just trying to squeak by and misjudged the tanker's turn.
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