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Old 09-11-2016, 03:39 PM   #1
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A scary night on the water last night...

I'm a big fan of Junior Achievement. I've been a JA volunteer teacher for many years, help with their annual fund raisers and helped them out in any way I can.

Last night we had 13 of their staff (and a couple of husbands) on the boat for a late evening cruise. We had been on the water for about 3.5 hours, watched the sun set and were just slow cruising back to the slip. It was well after dark and we were on a stretch of the river that was about 1/2 mile wide. I had seen a boat's lights about 1/2 mile ahead as it crossed from my right to left then went parallel to the north shore. It was moving very slowly so after watching it for a few seconds and realizing it presented no hazard, I stopped watching it.

Tina took over the helm as I was answering some questions from one of the passengers. I happened to glance back to the area in front of the boat and saw the sailboat now on a tack that would cross our bow, close enough to be a real hazard. Tina had not seen it so I told her to immediately go into reverse.

She did, we came to a stop, and the boat (about a 24' sailboat) passed by less than 15 yards from our bow.

The sailboat had its navigation lights on, with the 360* light at the top of the mast and its green starboard light illuminated. Other than that the boat was nearly invisible.

Now I realize that the sailboat under sail was the stand on vessel and we were the give way vessel. But I also realize that there's such a thing as being "dead right". Had I not spotted its green nav light and recognized it for what it was, we most likely would have hit it. Had that happened, even though we were only moving about 6 knots, we probably would have sunk it. Had that happened, there likely would have been a fatality or possibly several of all the people on the sailboat.

The "skipper" (using that term loosely) must have seen us. Our nav lights were working, plus the interior cabin lights were on. I was amazed that someone would put himself and his boat (and possibly passengers) in jeopardy by pulling a bonehead move like he did.
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Old 09-11-2016, 04:18 PM   #2
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It was well after dark and we were on a stretch of the river that was about 1/2 mile wide. I had seen a boat's lights about 1/2 mile ahead as it crossed from my right to left then went parallel to the north shore. It was moving very slowly so after watching it for a few seconds and realizing it presented no hazard, I stopped watching it.

Tina took over the helm as I was answering some questions from one of the passengers. I happened to glance back to the area in front of the boat and saw the sailboat now on a tack that would cross our bow, close enough to be a real hazard. Tina had not seen it so I told her to immediately go into reverse.

The sailboat had its navigation lights on, with the 360* light at the top of the mast and its green starboard light illuminated. Other than that the boat was nearly invisible.

Now I realize that the sailboat under sail was the stand on vessel and we were the give way vessel. But I also realize that there's such a thing as being "dead right". Had I not spotted its green nav light and recognized it for what it was, we most likely would have hit it. Had that happened, even though we were only moving about 6 knots, we probably would have sunk it. Had that happened, there likely would have been a fatality or possibly several of all the people on the sailboat.

The "skipper" (using that term loosely) must have seen us. Our nav lights were working, plus the interior cabin lights were on. I was amazed that someone would put himself and his boat (and possibly passengers) in jeopardy by pulling a bonehead move like he did.
Ok, let me see if I got this right:

You are captain and lookout, operating a vessel at night without radar on. You spot another vessel underway less than a half mile off. You turn the helm and lookout duties over to your wife without informing her of a vessel underway within a half mile of your vessel.

Then you're upset with the other captain for not yielding his right of way to a vessel with brighter lights.

Sorry, the bonehead move was either yielding the helm at night to socialize or failing to notify the next lookout of the other vessel.

Ted
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Old 09-11-2016, 04:43 PM   #3
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Did I miss something? What bone head thing did the other vessel do besides not anticipating that your boat didn't have a proper watch? It was showing proper lights and had right of way. Is your complaint that its cabin lights should have been on since yours were? I hate to generalize, but that is how sea rays get a bad name.
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Old 09-11-2016, 05:17 PM   #4
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I wasn't there and don't know all the details but I have had small sail boats and kayaks
do unexpected things, in almost every case I have been the give way vessel... Still there has to be some courtesy by both skippers and in the end the rule of gross tonnage still applies.
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Old 09-11-2016, 05:21 PM   #5
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Plenty of bonehead moves to go around. But T was in command.

More pairs of eyes are better than two, particularly at night. Boats nav lights are hard to see, particularly if there is background clutter, particularly teensy little sailboats, particularly if your boat is splashing light around and your eyes aren't handling the varying light levels (ever worse for us humans as we age).

As sailors, we both work to keep our eyes and minds on the job, particularly in less than stellar conditions. We assume the other guy is quite possibly not doing his job, and he might even be arrogant enough, drunk even, to not be polite to us.

As newby powerboaters, we both work to keep our eyes and minds on the job, particularly in less than stellar conditions. We assume the other guy is quite possibly not doing his job, and he might even be arrogant enough, drunk even, to not be polite to us.

As a boat owning team, both of us have to be able to handle the boat, be willing to take the effort and responsibility, and learn the ropes. That's the ideal, of course, but some of us are manly men, and others are deferential and delicate dames.

M, you and T made the most of the goofs; thank your lucky stars, repent and learn! Let's hope the sailor recognizes his part in the adventure, quits pushing his luck, and drives a little more defensively.
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Old 09-11-2016, 05:23 PM   #6
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If there had been a collision, both skippers would be at fault.
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Old 09-11-2016, 05:39 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by O C Diver View Post
Ok, let me see if I got this right:

You are captain and lookout, operating a vessel at night without radar on. You spot another vessel underway less than a half mile off. You turn the helm and lookout duties over to your wife without informing her of a vessel underway within a half mile of your vessel.

Then you're upset with the other captain for not yielding his right of way to a vessel with brighter lights.

Sorry, the bonehead move was either yielding the helm at night to socialize or failing to notify the next lookout of the other vessel.

Ted
Ahhh Ted, the old "Assumption" thing rears its ugly head again.

We did have the radar on and I had spotted the sailboat on the radar and had pointed it out to my wife at that time. I also pointed it out visually so she could see where it was. I continued to watch it visually and on the radar screen as it turned and took a reciprocal course to ours, about 1/4 mile off our port side.

I also didn't say that I was upset with the sailboater for not "yielding the right of way to a vessel with brighter lights." I realize that he was the stand on vessel. What I felt was the bonehead move was altering his course to cross in front of us.

He was on a broad reach, sailing almost directly across the wind as he approached our course. His boat was heeled away from us so he would have had his back to the wind. Assuming that he would have been watching the area ahead of his course he most certainly would have seen us on a closing path.

It's one thing to know that you are the stand on vessel and to expect that a power vessel would give way to you. It's another thing to carry that expectation to the point where it costs you your boat and possibly your life.

Had I, like many skippers on a Saturday night, had a few drinks while cruising the outcome might have been a lot different.
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Old 09-11-2016, 06:06 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GFC View Post
It was well after dark and we were on a stretch of the river that was about 1/2 mile wide. I had seen a boat's lights about 1/2 mile ahead as it crossed from my right to left then went parallel to the north shore. It was moving very slowly so after watching it for a few seconds and realizing it presented no hazard, I stopped watching it.

Tina took over the helm as I was answering some questions from one of the passengers. I happened to glance back to the area in front of the boat and saw the sailboat now on a tack that would cross our bow, close enough to be a real hazard. Tina had not seen it so I told her to immediately go into reverse.

She did, we came to a stop, and the boat (about a 24' sailboat) passed by less than 15 yards from our bow.

The sailboat had its navigation lights on, with the 360* light at the top of the mast and its green starboard light illuminated. Other than that the boat was nearly invisible.

Now I realize that the sailboat under sail was the stand on vessel and we were the give way vessel. But I also realize that there's such a thing as being "dead right". Had I not spotted its green nav light and recognized it for what it was, we most likely would have hit it. Had that happened, even though we were only moving about 6 knots, we probably would have sunk it. Had that happened, there likely would have been a fatality or possibly several of all the people on the sailboat.

The "skipper" (using that term loosely) must have seen us. Our nav lights were working, plus the interior cabin lights were on. I was amazed that someone would put himself and his boat (and possibly passengers) in jeopardy by pulling a bonehead move like he did.
Quote:
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Ahhh Ted, the old "Assumption" thing rears its ugly head again.

We did have the radar on and I had spotted the sailboat on the radar and had pointed it out to my wife at that time. I also pointed it out visually so she could see where it was. I continued to watch it visually and on the radar screen as it turned and took a reciprocal course to ours, about 1/4 mile off our port side.

I also didn't say that I was upset with the sailboater for not "yielding the right of way to a vessel with brighter lights." I realize that he was the stand on vessel. What I felt was the bonehead move was altering his course to cross in front of us.

He was on a broad reach, sailing almost directly across the wind as he approached our course. His boat was heeled away from us so he would have had his back to the wind. Assuming that he would have been watching the area ahead of his course he most certainly would have seen us on a closing path.

It's one thing to know that you are the stand on vessel and to expect that a power vessel would give way to you. It's another thing to carry that expectation to the point where it costs you your boat and possibly your life.

Had I, like many skippers on a Saturday night, had a few drinks while cruising the outcome might have been a lot different.
Mike, if I'm making assumptions, it was only based on the information you presented.

There seems to be some inconsistency in your two posts. In the first post you said she didn't see the other boat. In the second post you said you pointed it out to her (implying she saw it). Which is true? If she saw it, why did you have to tell her to stop? Did she not recognize it as a sailboat from the tricolor light, recognize she was the burdened vessel, and on a collision course?

Ted
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Old 09-11-2016, 06:27 PM   #9
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Old 09-11-2016, 06:32 PM   #10
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All vessels are obliged to avoid a collision, to that extent I question the navigation of the sailboat, but not otherwise. It carried the correct lights, and that is how it is seen at night. Sailboats have been known to shine a torch up the sails to draw more attention when thought necessary.
If you have sailing experience you can often predict the course a sailboat will take after it tacks.
It`s not entirely clear to what extent the sailboat was being tracked, but as part of the safe navigation of the give way vessel, it`s existence as a potential hazard had been identified. It should have been observed and tracked continuously as part of keeping a proper lookout, and avoided.
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Old 09-11-2016, 06:42 PM   #11
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You are lucky you could hand the helm over to another person, loose situational awareness and regain it so quickly. (and you're correct about your speed Totally different outcome with speed!)

But... It begs the question, why did you hand over the helm in the first place and allow distraction? Dusk, knowing there was a target, and talking to others.

PS (Using that term loosely) may also apply here too. You as operator were under just as much obligation to KEEP a good lookout. This has been interpreted as NOT relinquishing command to someone who is NOT up to the task.
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Old 09-11-2016, 06:54 PM   #12
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Actually, if the sailboat had a white light showing foreward, it wasn't a sailboat but a powerboat with sails up...not sure how that changed the "rules".

Also if in a confined waterway...one might consider it a narrow channel and again the sailboat may have been in the wrong. Rule 9.

I am not going to nit pick a situation that I have no evidence in.... but stopping your boat and missing another by 15 yards isn't even a close call in my neck of the woods.

I had near misses like that 10 times a day when towing in the NJ ICW..... and heck had striped bass trollers miss me by less the whole upper part of the Chesapeake Bay last December headed south...fortunately in daylight.

That's really why the navrules/Colregs are BS for boats like most of ours.....we are responsible to avoid collisions...and it's pretty dang easy with reverse.

The trick is seeing all the chuckleheads before they get to close...and that may be me sometimes because I am watching out for the third chucklehead in the situation.
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Old 09-11-2016, 07:01 PM   #13
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I'm not discussing who was most right or wrong, not saying who would have been judged responsible in an accident, just saying the captains of both boats failed to take adequate precautions and failed to consider that the other boat might not be aware of them.

Just some of the things I see contributing to the near collision:

1. Sailboat captain failed to consider that the Sea Ray captain might not see them.

2. Sea Ray Captain 1 was distracted by answering a question from a guest. Those conditions are always good for keeping both sets of eyes out front. He turned around just in time.

3. Sea Ray Captain 2 apparently failed to see the sailboat.

4. Sea Ray Captain 1 either did or didn't point the sailboat out to Captain 2 before she took the helm.

The vast majority of boat collisions involve some mistake on the part of both captains. One may be the cause, but there is always the question of whether the other should have or could have taken evasive action. I also suggest night vision might have helped in this situation.

Another thing both should reassess is their need to be out as they were after dark. We try to avoid night cruising. When we do cruise at night, we do have night vision, and we only enter one inlet at night. That inlet is Port Everglades and with all the lights along the path there and beyond, it's almost like having street lights.

I think a lot of things in this for us all to think about and to do so without blaming anyone and be thankful an accident was avoided.
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Old 09-11-2016, 07:11 PM   #14
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I'm not weighing in on this particular situation at all...
I will note that most airplane accident reconstruction programs I have watched suggest that there were a cascading series of "events" that led to the crash. In my own experience "events" are never simply summed up...
Just sayin
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Old 09-11-2016, 07:19 PM   #15
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I think, with respect, some of you have been a wee bit judgmental of GFC here. He bared his soul, as it were, and put the situation they encountered up to just highlight how tricky travelling at night on the water can be.

He managed the risk in time, and as an ex-sailor, I can say the sailboater was unwise to assume that a brightly lit power boat would see him in time to give him his right or way, especially as he could have, (and in that situation, I would have), just born away a tad and passed astern of GFC's cruiser.

Why? because...and this is the lesson here...in a brightly lit boat you lose most of your night vision, and it is much harder to see lights on boats out there.

I remember navigating to the Sanctuary Cove Boat show, which is up river, and my son and I were doing it deliberately, as a night navigation exercise. I had only a red light at the helm, (helps retain night vision), our nav lights on, and nothing else, yet still we only just saw in time, and missed fortunately, a moored large catamaran in the channel, which had no anchor light on. Found out later from the local Volunteer Marine Rescue folk that because it was moored off his property he did not have to have an anchor light. They admitted it was a strange rule, and an accident just waiting to happen, but that's how it was.

So, I think the main point GFC was trying to illustrate is if travelling at night, take nothing for granted, avoid distractions, and have several look-outs as well if possible, and all possible nav aids on. And still stick your head out in the night air regularly to double check..!
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Old 09-11-2016, 07:23 PM   #16
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We just got back from a trip Up the coast. I thought San Diego had its share of clueless renters, but I think Newport wins. After 2 night cruises, at least 3 close encounters with electric diffuy boats. Never got mad. Expected it, anticipated, and reacted accordingly. Only blew the horn once for good measure.

On a side note, Was hailed on 16 by Warship big carrier on the way back. Apparently 3 miles is not a wide enough gap. All good, I gave him a proposed adjusted course, and continued on our way.
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Old 09-11-2016, 07:32 PM   #17
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All vessels are obliged to avoid a collision, to that extent I question the navigation of the sailboat, but not otherwise. It carried the correct lights, and that is how it is seen at night. Sailboats have been known to shine a torch up the sails to draw more attention when thought necessary.
This. I never felt safe relying on other boaters seeing a couple of tiny nav lights--or if they did, knowing what they meant. (A 360 light at the top of a mast is an anchor light.) We always lit up our sails with a flashlight if we saw another boat headed anywhere near us at night. And we didn't play games of chicken no matter what the rules of the road allow. It's not about who has the ROW; it's about self preservation.
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Old 09-11-2016, 07:40 PM   #18
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One other thought. Why did neither boat use their radio? Using one, there's no need to guess the plans of the other or to wonder if they see you. Now, no guarantees both had them on, but seems likely no one checked to see.
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Old 09-11-2016, 08:02 PM   #19
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The point about inside lights at night is a very good one. You lose most of your ability to see outside if the inside is well lit at night. Don't know how dark it was in this case but it could contribute to problems. That's why chart lights are usually red or dim glow at least. Another thing mentioned above is whether or not the sailboat had an eng going. If he did he is no longer a vessel under sail, he becomes a vessel under power. Having personally witnessed many dumb moves by sailboats over the years and some were under power, I wonder how many sailboat skippers actually know that. Leaving Juneau once on the tug with a barge southbound one rainy afternoon years ago, a sailboat decided that was a good time to cross our bow while we were approaching the bridge. Skipper got on the hailer and in very loud voice said none too politely, "get the f*** outa the way!" That's one I wont ever forget.
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Old 09-11-2016, 08:45 PM   #20
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Tim: The way I look at it, you did what was required to in avoid a collision. Maybe he is sharing on a sailing forum this evening and boasting about how he taught a lesson to an MV Captain the night before, or maybe he's thanking his lucky stars.

I always assume that a sailing vessel doesn't see me when it comes to a collision course. When they are tacking in narrow bays, it's easier for me to make an adjustment so I do. Sometimes that may not be enough if they're headed for the shallows and their next tack is across my new heading, and I don't have the burst of speed you do.

Given all the circumstances and common errors preceding the moment of decision, I think you did the right thing, the good thing, and maybe the only thing to avoid a tragedy. Who gives a damn if it was a recalcitrant Captain wanting to make a point or maybe someone more distracted than you were at the time. I'm mighty thankful you're telling this story instead of the "other" one. Besides, with that big 550, you can wake the hell out of 'em next time you see 'em.
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