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Old 02-04-2013, 07:25 PM   #1
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Proper radio communication when encountering a barge on a river

I am pretty much a novice on radio communication with commercial traffic and need some advice. If I encounter a barge on a narrow river, either overtaking or passing head-on should I contact the barge captain on the radio to determine which side they would prefer to pass on? Or do I wait and let the barge captain contact me? (well I guess if I am overtaking I will have to initiate the call?) Then if I should initiate the call and since I monitor channel 16, do I initiate the call on 16 and then request to switch to another channel for further instruction? And then what is the typical protocol for communicating the pass? I have read that they may say, "pass on the ones", which I think is referring to horn blasts and is port to port for head-on? What about overtaking? I plan on an upcoming cruise that will put me on a narrow river with barge traffic and I want to be prepared.

Thanks for any advice you can provide.

Johnny
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Old 02-04-2013, 07:36 PM   #2
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Me? I just stay the heck out of their way.



So far.
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Old 02-04-2013, 07:52 PM   #3
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Looks like you may be familiar with the Petaluma river. Any concerns with using the approach of "staying out of their way?". I can do that but it is a pretty narrow route.

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Old 02-04-2013, 08:08 PM   #4
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No, that photo was taken at the eastern end of San Pablo Bay, near the western entrance of Carquinez Strait. In an extremely narrow channel such as the approach to the Petaluma River at the northwestern end of the bay (which I've yet to do), I'd keep to my (starboard) side of the channel and would be well-tempted to make radio communication.
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Old 02-04-2013, 08:33 PM   #5
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I am pretty much a novice on radio communication with commercial traffic and need some advice. If I encounter a barge on a narrow river, either overtaking or passing head-on should I contact the barge captain on the radio to determine which side they would prefer to pass on? Or do I wait and let the barge captain contact me? (well I guess if I am overtaking I will have to initiate the call?) Then if I should initiate the call and since I monitor channel 16, do I initiate the call on 16 and then request to switch to another channel for further instruction? And then what is the typical protocol for communicating the pass? I have read that they may say, "pass on the ones", which I think is referring to horn blasts and is port to port for head-on? What about overtaking? I plan on an upcoming cruise that will put me on a narrow river with barge traffic and I want to be prepared.
Thanks for any advice you can provide.Hey Johnny- we have traveled the ICW between Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana to Galveston Bay in Texas several times. While not a river, we were often in situations that required contact with tugs/ barge traffic. Traveling 2-3 mph faster than a tug that you are overtaking in a channel takes quite a bit of time. We would first use the "nocs" to locate the name of the tug we were about to overtake while still possibly a 1/4 mile back. I like to sound a bit seasoned, so would throw something out like"Bull Calf, Patricia Louise, over". If he responded, which is usually the case, I would try to make our intentions known in one quick statement, while still on 16. "We are the pleasure craft on your stern and want to ease around you on the two whistle (
his port) when you see an opening for me". I think this gets him vested in your safety and also acknowledges that you need his help. He may respond that there is a six pack around the next bend and after he passes he will instruct you it's safe to pass. I usually offer to throttle back when I start coming along side, but he usually tells you no need. He might even offer to throttle back for you as you pass. I also let him know after I have passed his front tow as a courtesy.
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Old 02-04-2013, 08:35 PM   #6
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Definitely call them but be aware that they may monitor a vessel traffic frequency and may ignore your call on 16. Out here on the left coast the two important channels are 5 and 11 - 5 around Seattle and 11 around Vancouver. I'll call them on 5 or 11 rather than 16 and they always respond. RTFM for your radio and set it up to (at a minimum) scan 16 plus whatever is your local vessel traffic frequency. That way even if you don't ever call anyone you'll hear them talking to traffic control and get some idea of what their intentions are.
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Old 02-04-2013, 08:46 PM   #7
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Greetings,
Welcome aboard Mr. Johny.
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Old 02-04-2013, 10:31 PM   #8
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Good thread. I tried calling this guy as he approached a narrow channel, but no reply on 16. He was probably on the Vessel Traffic Ch 12.

Here's a shot from this week as the big guy was pushing some water. If I timed it just right, I might have been able to throttle back and surf on his bow wave.

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Old 02-04-2013, 10:34 PM   #9
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What river you navigating? Here in the heartland, on the Mississippi, barge operators monitor 14. You might not get a response on 16. I would call 'northbound tow at mile 502.5 this is the pleasure craft AdVenture on your stern'. Incidently on the inland rivers upstream is northbound even if your traveling south
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Old 02-04-2013, 11:29 PM   #10
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Having traveled the Mississippi a number of times from Cairo to New Orleans I have found one of the most important bits of information you need to always have is your position. What mile marker or what bend in the river are you in or approaching. And yes, the tow boat captains monitor a "traffic" channel. You do have the one whistle and two whistle correct. Many times the only response you will hear from the tow captain is "one" or "two". That is it. Other captains will want to ask about your boat if they happen to like it.

If you choose to run at night the captains get a bit testy about a pleasure craft in their midst. I have made a few trips running over night and have found it is best to make friends with a tow captain and stay on his stern and definitely stay out of his way.

Some of the turns on rivers are so tight the tow captains ask that you not overtake while they are "flanking" to make the turn. Do not pass them or even get close during those times. They are very busy and not in a good mood. I had to wait quite a while at the last turn on the Cumberland before entering the Ohio a few months ago. Actually, it is interesting to watch a good captain manage one of those monster tows around a close bend.

It is a lot of fun playing on the rivers with the bigs guys running, just be careful.
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Old 02-05-2013, 09:23 AM   #11
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The Coot is too slow to pass most all traffic. Crossed the stern of this ship and its caretakers as they zigzagged through Carquinez Strait at a slightly higher speed than the Coot.

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Old 02-05-2013, 10:55 AM   #12
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You could call Jerico in Petaluma who I think still runs all the barge traffic on the river.
707-762-7251

I don't remember what channel they use, 13 (pretty sure it's 13 or 14 (pretty sure that's VTS), but they do monitor 16.

I was out there this past weekend and some friends said the river was in need of dredging, so you might also try to get the latest on depths. Jerico or somene at the yacht club or the marina by the Sheraton could help.
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Old 02-05-2013, 08:30 PM   #13
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The presence of ocean going ships is really impressive. But, I know the stuff I'm used to steering around is generally just under 1200' long x 105 wide. I know that that is generally bigger than than typical container ships. But from my experience on Lake Michigan the ocean going stuff looks much bigger because of its height. What impresses me is the fact the river tows proceed both up and down stream un aided. With a 5 mph tail wind the down stream navigation is amazing. In many tight places the tow must stop, backing against the current and pivot 'flanking' in place to go in a new direction. All the while avoiding a slew of idiot pleasure boaters. My hat's off to the professionals.
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Old 02-06-2013, 05:30 AM   #14
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If you call the tow on ch 13 ,the bridge to bridge nav channel (ch 67 on western rivers) the towboat capt should respond to you. He probably won't call you unless you are in his way. Remember, he is monitoring at least 2 and maybe 3 radios in his wheelhouse so sometimes patience is a good thing.
They will appreciate your contacting them with your intentions.
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Old 02-06-2013, 07:26 AM   #15
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+1 on the Channel 13 recommendation. I'm not a brown-water guy so I don't usually get to use 67.

Every radio manual comes with a VHF channel listing, or you can go to the FCC web site:
FCC: Wireless Services: Ship Radio Stations: Data: Channels
or just Google it.

You don't need to memorize the whole thing. Just identify they channels you might need to use: 16, 9, 13/26, and all the non-commercial general use channels: 68, 69, 71, 72, 78A.

I put a label near each radio with the last 5 so I can quickly pick a channel to switch to after hailing. Or you can print up a nice reference card like this one: http://www.raynormaritime.com/VHFSummary_Guide.pdf

This isn't difficult, but you really need to know which channels you should, and shouldn't, be using.
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Old 02-06-2013, 10:25 AM   #16
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If you call the tow on ch 13 ,the bridge to bridge nav channel (ch 67 on western rivers) the towboat capt should respond to you. He probably won't call you unless you are in his way. Remember, he is monitoring at least 2 and maybe 3 radios in his wheelhouse so sometimes patience is a good thing.
They will appreciate your contacting them with your intentions.
Just to clarify for newbies (the OP was inquiring about the Petaluma River) "Western Rivers" in the Navigation Rules is the Mississippi system above New Orleans, and does not include rivers on the west coast.
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Old 02-06-2013, 10:34 AM   #17
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On the REAL Western Rivers (meaning those out west) tugs are on 13. I generally don't call them unless we're going to be close in a passing or overtaking situation but when I do I'll wait to call until I can see the name on the tug (through 10x50 binocs). Then I can call them by name on the radio.
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Old 02-06-2013, 11:06 AM   #18
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Definitely call them but be aware that they may monitor a vessel traffic frequency and may ignore your call on 16. ................
They (we all) are required to monitor channel 16, but apparently they do not all do this. I had a situation where I needed to overtake a tug and barge on the AICW. I called several times on channel 16 and got no response. I just picked a spot and went on by.
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Old 02-06-2013, 11:33 AM   #19
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They (we all) are required to monitor channel 16, but apparently they do not all do this. I had a situation where I needed to overtake a tug and barge on the AICW. I called several times on channel 16 and got no response. I just picked a spot and went on by.
Vessels checked in with VTS are not required to monitor channel 16.
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Old 02-06-2013, 11:37 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Sailor of Fortune View Post
If you call the tow on ch 13 ,the bridge to bridge nav channel (ch 67 on western rivers) the towboat capt should respond to you. He probably won't call you unless you are in his way. Remember, he is monitoring at least 2 and maybe 3 radios in his wheelhouse so sometimes patience is a good thing.
They will appreciate your contacting them with your intentions.
Capt. Jack is the pro here. I have always had the most success contacting tows on channel 13. That goes for AICW and GICW traffic as well as the river system. Never did the Mississippi, and don't intend to. A few will not answer, but they are in the minority. I have found that sometimes at night the tow captains or pilots like to chat a little. They are usually very helpful. They don't want to deal with any "incidents". Just had a court case of a tow running over an open fishing boat at night near the Sequayah Nuclear Plant. Loss of life was involved. Fishing boat was anchored in the channel.
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