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    Re: Avoiding collision.
    From: Steven Wepster
    Date: 2003 Oct 8, 16:34 +0200

    Dear All,
    Being run down is certainly the gravest danger to a yacht here in the North
    Sea and the English Channel. To answer George's question:
    >>it would be interesting to learn if others on the list have the same
    Generally, in my experience, merchant vessels do not give way, but
    sometimes they do. One quite recent instance I remember quite well,
    probably because it is so a-typical. We were motoring, sails down, and
    crossing the TSS at right angles, as prescribed by rule 10 of de colregs.
    An empty bulker following the TSS and approaching on our port side altered
    course to starboard, so as to pass behind our stern, when still at a
    distance of more than 3 miles. There was no other ship either following the
    traffic lane or crossing it, so I am really convinced that he manouevered
    to give way to us.
    I am very much aware of the sheer invisibility of my boat from the bridge
    of a merchant. Even painting her red and yellow, and showing an all-round
    white masthead light at night in stead of a three-coloured light (she is
    only 1 m too long for that to be legal practice) does not make her more
    than a speck on the sea.
    Being on a small boat also means being low on the water and badly equipped
    to detect other ships and assess the risk of collision. If I am invisible
    behind a wave, then the other ship is also invisible for me; and I lack all
    means to obtain his distance, speed, CPA, etc. All I can do is take rather
    course compass bearings on him to see if potential risk of collision is
    developing. Experience tells me that in many cases the bearing will open up
    only very late even though the CPA is perfectly acceptable. Yes, I can
    manoeuver very easily, but I must do so on a very poor state of
    'situational awareness'. The sea room that I require and the distances at
    which I can make sound decisions are both much smaller than, say, on the
    bulk carrier that I mentioned above. This means that I might tend to
    postpone a decision to a time when impolite words are being muttered on the
    bridge of the merchant, were it not that I usually try to avoid that state
    of affairs. The practical adage is: 'If in doubt, get out'.
    Now, consider a situation where I have determined that, according to the
    colregs, my small yacht is the stand-on vessel, and that a merchant is the
    give-way vessel, as in the example above. Still following the colregs (in
    particular rule 17), it is my duty to stand on, until it appears to me that
    the other vessel is not taking sufficient and appropriate measures. Only
    from then on do the colregs allow me to to take my own action. The point
    where this becomes appropriate might be judged different from the bridge or
    from the cockpit.
    I agree with Doug that it is better to be alive than right.
    When we conclude, as George does, that the colregs are in certain
    situations 'a dead-letter', then something is wrong and the rules are not
    adequate. We can't hide it all behind rule 2b.
    I am a regular reader of the MARS reports in Seaways (an accident and
    near-miss reporting scheme on a voluntary and anonymous basis) and the
    sometimes hair-raising tales reveal to me two things: first, that not every
    ship is manned and run to the high standards that Doug writes about; and
    second, that many well-trained mariners are not happy with the current
    state of the colregs.
    The situation is getting worse for at least two reasons:
    1. High speed ferries. I am a sitting duck covering probably not even half
    a mile from the moment I spot one on the horizon. How am I going to avoid
    2. Waypoint navigation. There is growing evidence that since everybody is
    using GPS, traffic on fixed routes is getting denser, because broadly
    speaking everybody is right on track towards the same waypoint. There also
    seems to be a growing reluctance on certain ships to alter course (on top
    of the longer standing reluctance to alter speed) and get out of the beaten
    On the subject of MARS, its website is at
    Some articles are really recommended reading. The following example is of
    interest to the current discussion:
    Keep a sharp lookout,
    in these matters also, regrettably,
    I learned most from my own errors.
    "Good judgement comes with experience.
    Experience comes with bad judgement."
    I don't know who invented that.

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