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Old 11-20-2022, 08:44 PM   #1
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Cargo Wake Issue / Newer Boater

Hello. Had a bit of a terrifying experience today. We are in Seattle, 2006 Nordic 32, returning from Poulsbo to go through the Ballard Locks and came across a very large, weighted down cargo ship (full of Christmas goods?). We didn't think we could cross the shipping lane in time so we went north, crossing it north as it headed south. We then did two large circles (about 15 minutes of driving around and heading north) before we crossed the wake. The wake was massive to us, there were two large waves, the first ~4 foot, the second ~6 feet. We were all a bit jostled, a few items went flying (water bottle, sunglasses) and we were okay (dogs were terrified), but it was definitely a LOT bigger than we anticipated. Especially that 2nd 6 footer. Water completely over the bow of the boat. WTF? We are trying to learn from this. Here are some specs:

Vessel: CMA CGA Titan
Length: 363 meters
Width: 46 meters
Gross Tonnage: 131332
Summer deadweight: 131236

We are not that experienced, but I have never heard of such massive wakes and to look out for them. Thoughts? I think we both feel a bit scarred. Boat, of course, took it like a champ, much better than us. Kind insights appreciated.
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Old 11-20-2022, 09:01 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by huruta View Post
Hello. Had a bit of a terrifying experience today. We are in Seattle, 2006 Nordic 32, returning from Poulsbo to go through the Ballard Locks and came across a very large, weighted down cargo ship (full of Christmas goods?). We didn't think we could cross the shipping lane in time so we went north, crossing it north as it headed south. We then did two large circles (about 15 minutes of driving around and heading north) before we crossed the wake. The wake was massive to us, there were two large waves, the first ~4 foot, the second ~6 feet. We were all a bit jostled, a few items went flying (water bottle, sunglasses) and we were okay (dogs were terrified), but it was definitely a LOT bigger than we anticipated. Especially that 2nd 6 footer. Water completely over the bow of the boat. WTF? We are trying to learn from this. Here are some specs:

Vessel: CMA CGA Titan
Length: 363 meters
Width: 46 meters
Gross Tonnage: 131332
Summer deadweight: 131236

We are not that experienced, but I have never heard of such massive wakes and to look out for them. Thoughts? I think we both feel a bit scarred. Boat, of course, took it like a champ, much better than us. Kind insights appreciated.

The big lesson to learn from this is that wakes happen, and you need to continue to learn and be ready for them.

Nobody got hurt, and you learned today.
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Old 11-20-2022, 09:01 PM   #3
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You did fine. I bought my boat because it was advised at being able to take more than her crew can. Keep the bow to the waves and keep on!
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Old 11-20-2022, 09:09 PM   #4
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You need to learn how your boat handles wakes. Sometimes head on is not the best angle. Practice cutting through smaller wakes, even making circles and cutting through your own wake. You might find that somewhere between head on and 45 degrees is your sweet spot.
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Old 11-20-2022, 09:31 PM   #5
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Thanks, for the quick feedback. Sounds like these things happen and that it was all par for the course. I guess one question is whether there is a way we could have anticipated this big of a wake? We've passed behind many WA ferries without such a huge hit, wondering if there's some formula, threshold, or a priori analytics we can do to inform our approach?
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Old 11-20-2022, 09:32 PM   #6
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Greetings,
Mr. h. Yep. Wakes happen. Early on in my boating career I had a similar incident. Certainly made me more aware of wakes and waves. Chalk it up to a learning experience.
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Old 11-20-2022, 09:40 PM   #7
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Sounds like you did fine. As noted, our boats can often handle more than the crew can - people and doggos.

Depending on the conditions of wind, current and channel boundaries, it's possible that the container ship was having to keep more speed on than normal, for the sake of rudder control. You were probably wise to go behind her rather than try to pass in front. Big ships are often moving faster than it appears.
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Old 11-20-2022, 09:40 PM   #8
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I am not familiar with the area so this may not apply to you, but wakes tend to dissipate over time so the further away from the boat you can cross the wake the smaller the wake will be. A good takeaway from this is to always have items stowed and secured, even when you don't expect any drama, because when the drama happens, you don't want to be distracted by housekeeping issues.
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Old 11-20-2022, 09:41 PM   #9
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You'll get use to them and the wakes will go from terrifying to annoying.


The angle you cross the wake and the speed of your boat can reduce the effect.


My dog sleeps thru them.
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Old 11-20-2022, 09:49 PM   #10
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Per Marine Traffic the ship was going 17 knots. Perhaps that played into the large wake, along with its 1000 foot length, 135 foot beam, and ridiculous weight? Ferries can't weigh anything near that beast. Clash of the (massive) Titan with the 'lil Titan (Nordic Tug 32)? Definitely lesson learned re: flying objects out of seemingly nowhere.
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Old 11-20-2022, 09:56 PM   #11
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I've boated in this area a lot. Anything pushing a ton of water will likely leave a good wake. Ferries are nothing in the relative scheme of boating around here as far as wakes go. So you may not have heard of it yet, but let me be the first to alert you to potential for huge wakes in the area. I've been able to track the wakes on my radar before.

You really have to keep an eye on large ship traffic but it's pretty easy since they run in the marked channels.

The other thing to be aware of is large ocean going tugs. They can draw and push A LOT of water. So while they dont look as big as a ferry or a tanker they can throw massive wakes.




Quote:
Originally Posted by huruta View Post
Hello. Had a bit of a terrifying experience today. We are in Seattle, 2006 Nordic 32, returning from Poulsbo to go through the Ballard Locks and came across a very large, weighted down cargo ship (full of Christmas goods?). We didn't think we could cross the shipping lane in time so we went north, crossing it north as it headed south. We then did two large circles (about 15 minutes of driving around and heading north) before we crossed the wake. The wake was massive to us, there were two large waves, the first ~4 foot, the second ~6 feet. We were all a bit jostled, a few items went flying (water bottle, sunglasses) and we were okay (dogs were terrified), but it was definitely a LOT bigger than we anticipated. Especially that 2nd 6 footer. Water completely over the bow of the boat. WTF? We are trying to learn from this. Here are some specs:

Vessel: CMA CGA Titan
Length: 363 meters
Width: 46 meters
Gross Tonnage: 131332
Summer deadweight: 131236

We are not that experienced, but I have never heard of such massive wakes and to look out for them. Thoughts? I think we both feel a bit scarred. Boat, of course, took it like a champ, much better than us. Kind insights appreciated.
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Old 11-20-2022, 09:58 PM   #12
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Sounds like you learned a lot.

My little Nordic Tug takes the waves head on fairly well. Lots of spray, a bit of blue or green water, and a little excitement of things not stowed for sea.

You'll get used to it.
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Old 11-20-2022, 10:11 PM   #13
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I was pretty shocked the first time I took a big cargo ship wake head on in my 37. The well between the first and second wave was so steep and deep that it felt like we were going to pitch pole. I now try to place myself to cross well behind where the period of the wake has had a chance to spread out, and to cross at maybe a thirty degree angle which has the effect of lengthening the period even more without adding too much of a roll component to my motion. Another thing is to consider the type of ship whose wake you are crossing. The big laden bulk cargo ships are a totally different animal from the ferries, the car carriers, or even the container ships. They are displacing so much more water that it doesn’t compare. I give those guys as wide a berth as I can possibly manage.
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Old 11-20-2022, 10:27 PM   #14
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Depending on when you came in this afternoon there was an outgoing tide so current moving north. That can help stand up a wake of a southbound ship. Good call on playing it safe and letting it pass rather than trying to cross in front of it. With your boat I'd probably try and cross something like that at a 20 degree angle. Since you buried your bow that tells me the waves were pretty close together and going at a 45 degree angle may get you rolling and really tossed around. I'd also would probably slow down to 4-5 knots so the boat doesn't drop off the backside of the wave.

What you experienced today could turn out worse in Admiralty Inlet where the current runs stronger or at Port Townsend off Point Wilson. Ships run at speed in those areas. Consider yourselves lucky that you got the intro to large wakes where you did. What I've found to be worse than a cargo ship are the ocean going Foss tractor tugs, those things can throw a nasty short and steep wake when they are moving at speed. Getting a couple miles away from one of their wakes could be a very wise move.

Also think about how it would have played out cooking something on the stove while tied to a buoy on the east side of Blake Island at low tide. You may drop down to 15-20 feet of water and Mr. Cargo Ship that draws 30 feet of water sends you a wake to remember. If you anchor along a shipping lane you must be prepared to roll. It's one thing to get hit on the bow but on the beam can be a dangerous ride. Not sure if you guys have a stern thruster but if so that can be a quick way to swing your boat bow into a wave when you are at anchor.

Don't worry you will get the hang of it, it is just part of what we have going on in Puget Sound.
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Old 11-20-2022, 11:03 PM   #15
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You did everything right. Came back in one piece. Now you know what to tie down before leaving the dock, and to stay at the dock when the NOAA wave forecast is 3-5 with high winds. The boat can handle it but my wife put her foot down when we once hit some 6-8 conditions and I enjoy her company so I check sea state forecast before leaving a harbor.
(We turned back on that day)
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Old 11-20-2022, 11:23 PM   #16
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Wakes that large should be the exception and not common. The speed of the ship makes a huge difference in the size of the wake, so try to be aware of the ship’s speed in this kind of situation. AIS will tell you their speed if you are so equipped. That same ship at 10 kts would leave a wake far smaller than what you encountered.

Bottom line is that with time on the water, you will learn to have a pretty good idea of what wakes you really need to steer clear of. You will get rocked now and then, but should be able to avoid most of the worst ones.
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Old 11-21-2022, 03:12 AM   #17
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What was your speed when you hit the wake? You get a much smoother crossing if you slow down.
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Old 11-21-2022, 09:27 AM   #18
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Most boats can take more than the crew.

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Old 11-21-2022, 10:15 AM   #19
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Thank you all for your feedback - it is appreciated. I feel like we are learning is now, reflecting and taking in all the wonderful perspectives you all have been sharing. Here's some more information and take aways:

- We were going ~7.5 knots; would go ~4-5 next time
- The waves were very close to each other which I think amplified the wave (and stress). We pitched down steeply and quickly before heading up to hit the next, larger wave.
- We were perpendicular to the wave, perhaps a 20 degree angle might have helped
- The speed, size and weight of the ship was in a league different from what we had encountered before and this can be an important data point for future wake crossings
- We would probably go further beyond the ship next time allowing for wake dissipation
- Sounds like others have experienced this on occasion, but it's not the norm (good to know this wasn't some total rookie mistake)
- We have AIS - need to figure out how to see speed - we found it on Marine Traffic as we were making our plans to go behind the ship, so still go the info but need to learn our tech a bit more
- The encounter was around 1:30pm, so I think slake tide, but didn't think about this. Taking a tides and currents class next month, sounds like this will be good information to have
- We have been to Blake Island and the comment re: mooring near a shipping channel carries more weight given this experience. Also a great heads up - we've been to Blake once and are excited to go back in the coming months. We have a stern thruster.
- Sounds like we are lucky to have this happen here. I've heard about Admiralty Inlet / Port Townsend area having strong currents - didn't think about this in the context of large ships and wakes - makes a lot more sense now.
- Gives us a sense of what we are not okay with in terms of wave heights.
- Definitely going to keep an eye out for those ocean going tugs

Husband and I were deconstructing this at dinner and one thing he mentioned is that in high stress situations, it's not the first stressor but the second that gets you. I don't think I appreciated how frayed our nerves were after. We are both pretty calm in high stress, but the after effects on us were rippling. It was the roughest transition through the locks (our 4th time through) all due to user error, likely due to the fact that internal stress was still high. Came out fine, but definitely another lesson in there.
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Old 11-21-2022, 11:30 AM   #20
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On passage our rule was to not cross behind a VLCC, large container ship or cruise ship unless there was >2nm. Once you get something >1000’ going at their passage speed they create suction and wake. Often what you see as wake is misleading as to the impact it will have on your boat.
In coastal waters they are going slower but still can really disturb the surroundings. We don’t run in shipping channels. It’s deceptive how fast they’re going given they’re so large so you can’t trust your eyes. AIS/radar is better in this situation. Especially when they are the overtaking vessel. Rather than the channel we run parallel as far away as local depths allow. Before the wake strikes change orientation so your not struck on your beam. I’d rather go up and down than roll. Typically will slow down a bit as well. We don’t pass in front of a ship unless there’s a huge safety margin. So generally much prefer to just slow down and wait for them to go by. Depending upon how fast they’re going will wait additional time for the suction and wake to mostly clear.
We plan ahead. Things like going up the Delaware to get to the C&D. Will wait to cross whenever there’s no one around that will bother us. Then proceed up the C&D entrance side until we get there.
In NYC hug the Brooklyn side if going to LI sound or the NJ side if going to the Hudson. Find if you plan ahead you can stay away from shipping almost all the time.
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