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.
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.