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Old 15-10-2009, 19:07   #31
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- - As another has said, we all start somewhere, sometime, and learn as we go along. The idea is to continue living while learning. The ColRegs/Inland Rules are quite clear about what should have been done and that is - upon first sighting the ship you should have cleared out of the channel or gotten as far to the side of the channel as possible and held position there until the large ship was past.
- - I am very familiar with the St. Johns River from the Inlet to Jacksonville and have the chart open right now. The channel does consume the the whole river from bank to bank for most of the way to Jax. Especially on the turns and bends the channel goes from the dredged depth to a foot or two of depth just outside the channel. That puts you between a "rock and hard place" (shoal shore and big steel ship) when navigating that river.
- - All the big ships entering the St Johns River are under the direction of a Jax Pilot who knows where to position the ship within the channel to be able to make it around the next turn/ bend in the river. He is also in contact on VHF harbor frequencies coordinating with other large ships who are coming up the river or exiting the river. That is necessary as two ships may not be able to pass each other during some of the turns. So he is busy. He cannot slow down or deviate from the prescribed path necessary to keep the ship in safe water. Especially - when you said, the tide was inbound (flood tide). To maintain steerage he needs to be moving relative to the water, not the shore/land.
- - Luckily the USCG wasn't around to see you or they would have "nailed you" for unsafe operation of a vessel in a congested harbor. Do not ever enter a busy commercial harbor (Jax is a major one) without an engine operating all the time! You cannot comply with Colregs/Inland Water Regs (Inland Water Regs are the controlling rules once inside the entrance of a river.). You must be able to quickly get out of the way of any inbound or outbound shipping as you are absolutely the "give-way" vessel as Post#17 quotes for you. To not be able to "give-way" constitutes "unsafe operation" of a vessel.
- - That is simple common sense and the Regs are based on common sense. When given a choice of wrecking the large ship by attempting to turn or even slowing when inbound on a flood tide in such a channel the pilot will accept the collision as another post #27 described. Anything else is a disastrous maneuver. The pilot and the Captain will elect to run over a small boat rather than attempt such a maneuver. Think about the consequences of that ship loosing steerage, colliding with a bridge - there is a major highway bridge halfway to Jax and having cars tumble into the river. Imagine the cargo is fertilizer (Ammonium Hydroxide - this almost happened in Philadelphia) and the ship loses control collides with shoreline or other piers or ships and catches on fire. There would be one large crater that includes half of the city of Jacksonville. The potential for major disaster exists and as such anybody attempting to "sail" up or down the river without an operating engine ready to get you "out of the way" is engaging in "reckless operation of a vessel."
- - As with most rules and regs, few people follow them, or are lucky enough to avoid an incident - but please learn from this. It is not only your own life (and wife's) but the lives of the people on the ship and along the shores that you are jeopardizing.
- - We learn by our mistakes, nobody is exempt, but please try to not ever do that again. I have learned about the "no engine, no entry" from personal experience and ended up having to spring for a towboat to bring me into a USA commercial harbor. Luckily I had TowBoatUS insurance. Luck can take you a long way, but the law of averages is always lurking in the background.

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Old 15-10-2009, 19:13   #32
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Some harsh comments and extreme opinions here. Not very conducive to the sharing of ideas and information. I've shared a lot of small channels with some big vessels, and in my experience, common sense and courteous communication usually works. Of course, you'll occasionally find a-holes out there, like everywhere else. Being a commercial captain doesn't make you right all the time, and isn't a license to be an a-hole, but confrontations with bigger boats isn't safe either. So I guess if you're big enough, you can get away with being an a-hole.

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Old 15-10-2009, 19:43   #33
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Well, I have learned some things from this thread. A sailboat is not welcome in major commerical harbors without an auxiliary engine. Makes sense. Explains a situation that came up coming out of Baltimore's inner harbor, when the breeze was on our backs so we were sailing. Come around a corner and a couple of major freighters maneuvering to get into a port. First mate calls me on deck and says "what do we do-their in our way" I say start the engine and get the $%$$$ out of of here and out of the channel! Never got that close to them, but I am sure they were watching us.
I like smaller ports anyway...
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Old 15-10-2009, 21:27   #34
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Once is enough...

Having had a large ship "show" that they were going to go where they wanted, when they wanted, and were going to do it with surprising speed I now do my very best to stay out of the way of anything big.
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Old 15-10-2009, 22:00   #35
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Well the Colregs are clear about who has right of way - the big ship in the channel!

Rules aside, common sense suggests that the larger vessel will often not be able to change course or stop in time to avoid a collision. It's physics, not ruthlessness, which governs the choices of the ships captain: Their wide turning radius and vast momentum usually precludes dodging anything.
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Old 15-10-2009, 22:22   #36
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One prudent option would be to get on the radio and issue a securite to all concerned vessels. I know of very few channels in busy commercial harbors that can not accommodate a small sailboat and a large freighter with a little bit of communication between skippers.

Also lets not forget that Colregs was written before the axillary motor was an inevitability on a sailboat. There is no rule in there that says you have to have a working motor just one that says you have to be in control of your ship.

If the wind drops and the motor dies then you should hoist two black balls in a vertical line and get on the radio. But before that happens you should be a good enough skipper to not have got into that situation to begin with.
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Old 15-10-2009, 22:25   #37
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Not a difficult thing to understand. Know your ColRegs & remember rule#1!
Everyone out there should know the rules in the area they are sailing.Mike
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Old 15-10-2009, 22:25   #38
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Fit a depth gauge or fishfinder. Your 'safe channel' is much wider than his!
I've found it great when tacking up a channel because I can make a safe decision on how late to tack. My channel is gravel bed with a safe bottom for a cat so I think at less than 5metres knowing I have to tack before 2 metres.
Being a cat the rescue plan is to jibe if the first tack attempt stalls out so my minimum tends to be 4 metres of water except where chart and depth show a level base.
Beginning to learn how to tack more reliably when the wind is under f3 or over f6.
New boat, new sailor. A hundred hours and no major's so far, but a growing awareness of how many things can go wrong and how they multiply together.
Biggest lesson so far (in our busy waters) is 'Ready to Tack' call which triggers an all round look see, chef to beware, etc before calling 'Going About.'
I use the ferry often too, so often delayed following motor sailors that only look ahead. Sailing on good days is a joy and the trap is too easy to fall into.
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Old 15-10-2009, 22:37   #39
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Originally Posted by yardpro View Post
sorry mark, but that answer is totally wrong....
i have grown up in boats (motor) and know tons of commercial captians...
Neither you growing up on boats nor you knowing commercial captains makes you an expert on the rules. Only familiarizing yourself with Colregs does. Mark is only very wrong not totally.
Originally Posted by johnar View Post
I just can not believe the larger ship can just run another boat over, killing people. sinking a boat.
You are correct Colregs states that "In construing and complying with these Rules due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from these Rules necessary to avoid immediate danger" A large commercial vessel must assume that there are "special circumstances" before running someone over.
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Old 15-10-2009, 23:07   #40
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I am not familiar with that channel so I don't know if the channel is split into inbound and outbound lanes. If it is you should have been over to the starboard side of the channel.

I have been hailed by large ferries before asking what course I planned. In every case I had planned to tack well before getting anywhere near them, but the ferry captain doesn't know that. These guys run into a fair number of sailors who interpret the colregs as giving a boat under sail unlimited right of way and they have learned to call on the radio to be sure where everyone is going. Perhaps a better answer to the call from the freighter instead of "we are trying to get out of the way" would be to describe more precisely what you were going to do, for example, " I will come about and stay to the edge of the channel".

We have lots of blind turns up here in Puget Sound and I have found AIS to be very helpful in letting me know well in advance that a freighter or ferry is just on the other side of a blind corner alowing me to not get into a tight situation.
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Old 16-10-2009, 01:35   #41
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Originally Posted by RunningFish View Post
Some harsh comments and extreme opinions here. Not very conducive to the sharing of ideas and information. I've shared a lot of small channels with some big vessels, and in my experience, common sense and courteous communication usually works.
I have to agree. It seems to me that the harsh tone and arrogant attitude of the captain, combined with the unexpected failure of his engine, contributed in shaking up the OPer and his wife, rocking their confidence, so they came here for advice to determine if they did in fact do something wrong (and thus advice how to avoid it in the future) or if it was just the captain being a dick. It is a shame that upon posting, he largely got more of the same attitude.
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Old 16-10-2009, 03:43   #42
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Hmmm lots of opinions, but if I get the gist of the regs, both boats have a right to the channel, the give way boat is the one with the best ability to manuver, in this case the sail boat. He has the obligation to allow the priviliged vessel to proceed safely, The OP did this.

The regs quoted and as I know them do not say anything that either vessel must be on the port or starboard side of the channel, and I know of no other rule that says you must be port or starboard side, starboard just happens to be the preferred side in most channels, at least in the USA and similar bouyage systems. But it is not required.

Regarding shipping lanes, sailboats and small recreational craft are usually not under these guidelines and in those instances you do not need to be in the designated lanes, in fact, most places in the world would like for ou not to be in those lanes, you would cross them as quickly as possible and stay on the fringe if you wish to use the channel. Now there are locations where small recreational vessels are expected to compy with the lanes and guidance provided by the controlling authority for that harbor/channel., if that had been the case here, both ships would have been operating under that guidance, and presumably, one or the other would not have been allowed to be in the same vicinity of each other in the first place. That kind of control is often excersied at military ports, or where hazardous cargoes are moved, but not always. If you are unfamiliar with a harbor or channel, a call to port control will usually and promply give you guidance.

OP All of the rest of the comments relate to what is good seamanship, no one can say for you what is right and wrong based on your skills and knowledge, and the capabilities of your boat. Some of it is decent advice, but not all of it. My two cents, if you were within 20 feet of the edge of the channel, I suspect that any merchant ship in any channel in the world had sufficient room to get by. Regarding the engine, things break, s... happens. As a former aviator, one of the things you are taught is to ask yourself the "what if " questions as you are going along. One possible "what if" is what to do if the winds die and the engine will not start when you are in a channel.

My plan, where possible, whether under motor or sail, is to be on the windward side of the channel, and be immediately ready to head to the side of the channel and anchor. When being passed by a major vessel, I move even closer to the edge of the channel. Sometimes the windward side of the channel is not the preferred side, as tides, anchoring locations, other traffic like small fishing boats, etc may make the standard plan not the correct plan. Anticipation and iidentification of the potential problem is thee key. For example, as one poster suggested, starting and checking the engine early in the situation would have been helpful, if you knew you had to rely on sail only and saw the wind was dying, it is then time to get to the safest possible spot and drop the hook and wait for wind, or call for assistance.

Cheers and have fun sailing, we are all still learning!

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Old 16-10-2009, 04:33   #43
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Hey Yardpro and Unbusted67

What did Mark say that was wrong? Both ships have the right to the channel. If the burdened vessel provided sufficient room for the other to not be impeded, which was the facts in the case in point we were discussing, what in Marks answer was wrong?

If the pilot, or ships captain spouts off, why can't a fellow skipper respond in kind? I agree it is not professional, but it is not wrong vis a vis Colregs, is it?

Yardpro, the case of the boat anchored in the middle of a channel is not on topic, or did I miss something in the OP's question? I would however agree that legal position of the owner of the Grady, (I can leave my boat unattended at anchor in the channel while I go party and any vessel the tug/barge can just go around) would not be supported by any interpretation of Colregs. But it is not the situation under discussion as posted by the OP.
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Old 16-10-2009, 05:13   #44
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Originally Posted by johnar View Post
Hello All,

To start with I started sailing just a 2 years ago and lately have been out alot some each time i have been learning more. But it is still a learning curve.

On this last trip I was coming in the St. Johns river from the Atlantic when i met a very big ship outbound, I had a wire lose and the motor would not start at the time, The large ship hailed me and told me i need to get out of the channel at the time i was about 20 feet inside the main channel under full sail doing about 2 knots my wife informed him that we where trying to get out of the way and the motor would not run, his answer was " It sounds to him its my problem "

My question is what should i have done differant? In the past I have always moved out of the channel as soon as i see them and in most cases they do not even hail me, It was two things that happen this time the other ship came around a corner at the worist time when my motor would not start.

thank you all for any advice.

Dutch….sounds like you were simply hearing a constipated pilot who thought it was funny to give you a scare.

Mark is right…. You are allowed to be in the channel but not to impede ships constrained to the channel, but since you are ok, there was probably lots of room.

In the future if you find yourself in this kind of a bind with broken engine and you see something big coming your way make a securite call to inform them.

That is all you are expected to do.

How to Make a Securité Call On a VHF Marine Radio |
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Old 16-10-2009, 05:52   #45
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The basic problem here is a combination of the IRPCS and the signals being shown.

Assuming that both craft were displaying the correct shapes. It is merely a question of the priority of a vessel constrained by its draft, versus a sailing vessel - a simple call

if there had been a manoeuvring problem, then the yacht could easily have claimed restricted in ability to manoeuvre, but the constrained by draft is a higher priority.

If no shapes or symbols are being displayed, then a power vessel overtaking a yacht is a different matter. However, in this situation following the VHF, it is then obvious that a constrained by draft situation exists, thus we are back to the previous simple rules - get out of the way.

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