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    Re: Interaction with big vessels. was: A few questions for the pros
    From: Lu Abel
    Date: 2005 Jun 17, 14:20 -0700

    George:
    
    First of all Carl is really speaking of near-shore waters.  In the US
    and Canada, national regs require a pilot to be on board the vessel (I
    suspect this is much the same on your side of the Pond, since it was
    Henry VIII that came up with the idea :-) ), so there will be someone of
    authority on board who speaks English quite well.
    
    In addition, US regs require all commercial vessels to stand watch on
    VHF Ch 13 in addition to Ch 16 (by using two separate radios, channel
    scanning has been ruled as not fulfilling the requirement).  When I've
    needed to contact a commercial vessel, I've found them far more likely
    to respond to a hail on Ch 13 than Ch 16.  It's either because they know
    the person on the other end is likely to be a competent mariner because
    he knows enough to use Ch 13 or because they turn Ch 16 down because
    there are too many idiots idly chattering on it (it's actually gotten
    better in the last decade as the idiots have moved to cell phones).
    
    In fact, it's gotten to the point now where commercial vessels often
    deal with maneuvering intentions by talking it through on the radio (on
    Ch 13) rather than sounding whistle signals.   I've heard recreational
    boaters on our big rivers like the Mississippi complain that many
    commercial vessels (especially quarter-mile-long barge "tows" [which are
    really being pushed]) often do not sound the required long whistle blast
    when approaching a blind curve because they've already ascertained via
    radio that there's no commercial traffic in their vicinity.  Discovering
    at the last minute a  quarter-mile-long slug of barges skidding around a
    bend in a river can be a surprise to the recreational boater going in
    the opposite direction!
    
    Again, I don't know what the situation is in Europe, you guys often have
    tighter rules than we have here.  Recreational boaters are regulated by
    the individual states, not the US government.  Some states (maybe 1/4 to
    1/3 of the coastal states) now require operator licenses.  But one gains
    a license by passing a really simple classroom or on-line course that
    barely covers the rules of the road and legal requirements (lifejackets,
    etc).  No on-the-water test.   It's like being given a driver's license
    by knowing what speed limit and stop signs mean  but nothing else and no
    road test.   The result is that 90% of our recreational boaters have no
    knowledge of the Nav Rules, much less simple navigation tasks like
    determining a course on a chart and then steering it.  I can rave about
    this, but 90% of our boating also takes place on relatively small lakes
    and rivers where there's no commercial traffic, eyeball navigation works
    fine and most people manage to stay out of collisions simply by using
    common sense.  It's when they get into coastal waters with fog,
    commercial traffic, etc, that their lack of knowledge can become
    painfully apparent.
    
    The biggest problem I have with recreational mariners of this ilk is
    that they assume all boats have the maneuverability of their boat (and
    they're most often driving small, very maneuverable runabouts).  Not
    only do sharp turns seem simple to them, but also the ability to
    instantly start and stop.  I've been in situations where I've been
    required to closely follow one of these guys with my 36', 8 ton sailboat
    and they really don't have any idea that I can't stop with a boatlength
    as they can.
    
    On our side, too, the unwritten rule is that small vessels avoid large
    ones, even if one has right-of-way.  From my experience this is
    self-defensive more than courteous -- too many commercial vessels
    believe size is all that counts.  More than once I've nearly been run
    down in my sailboat by a small-to-medium-size commercial vessel despite
    us being in visual range for a very long time (20~30 minutes) and the
    other vessel having plenty of maneuvering room to properly give me the
    right-of-way.
    
    Lu Abel
    
    
    george huxtable wrote:
    > At 15:05 17/06/2005, Carl Herzog wrote, responding to "a few questions for
    > the pros"-
    >
    >> ... commercial captains have a good idea what other
    >> commercial ships are going to do, but they have NO idea what the little
    >> guy in the sailboat is doing.
    >>
    >> When commercial vessels meet each other they know the rules and the
    >> accepted practices, and each can make some assumption that other guy
    >> knows them as well. They stay in close contact with one another on the
    >> radio, calling to announce their intentions, find out what the other guy
    >> is doing, and agree on how they will pass each other. (Listen in on VHF
    >> 13 and you'll hear all this conversation, giving you a much better idea
    >> what the commercial traffic is doing.)
    >>
    >> But when they encounter a small boat, they have NO idea what kind of
    >> training, if any, the boat's operator has. Most boat owners don't know
    >> the rules of road, though many think they do. Most small boats don't
    >> monitor the VHF radio and can't be contacted. Recreational boats don't
    >> stick to any kind of normal course, often darting back and forth. And
    >> most boaters don't have the slightest understanding of the
    >> maneuverability restrictions of large commercial craft. From the
    >> commercial captain's standpoint, it's a recipe for disaster.
    >>
    >> Unlike  a couple sailboats rounding a mark in a race, there is no such
    >> thing as a harmless bump between two large commercial vessels or between
    >> a ship and a small boat. The mass involved makes serious damage
    >> inevitable. When you sail across the bow of a ship, thinking you've got
    >> plenty of room, the guy on the bridge is TERRIFIED that you're going to
    >> get run over and killed. A commercial ship captain is a normal, caring
    >> person, who would really rather not watch you die. Nor does he want to
    >> have to defend himself, his license and career in court afterward.
    >>
    >> Carl Herzog
    >
    >
    > Some things are a bit different in European waters, it seems to me, from
    > what Carl describes.
    >
    > To start with, the discussions and mutual agreements, over VHF, that Carl
    > describes as occurring in US waters (and perhaps especially US inland
    > waters, which have special rules of their own) are deprecated in many other
    > parts of the world.
    >
    > You can see the logic of this, in areas where a great mix of nationalities
    > and languages is common on the various bridges. Discussion and  agreement,
    > in broken English, is a likely recipe for disaster. Especially agreements
    > between two vessels, between them, to depart from the letter of the rules,
    > which has been condemned as illegitimate in court cases. At least, in
    > American/Canadian waters most of the participants will be speaking a form
    > of English, even if it isn't the Queen's.
    >
    > The strong message that has come from English courts is that navigators
    > should rely on what their eyes and their radars tell them, and what the
    > rules say, and not try to supplement that with information obtained via VHF
    > radio.
    >
    > Of course, until recently, the difficulty has been that of identification:
    > being certain that the vessel you are talking to on VHF is indeed the same
    > vessel that you have identified as a target on the horizon, or on the radar
    > screen. That uncertainty will have been recently resolved, for many
    > vessels, by the advent of AIS (Automatic Identification of Ships). I doubt
    > if there have been any recent court decisions that deal with the new
    > situation.
    >
    > But the big difference from the idyllic state-of-affairs that Carl
    > describes is this one-
    >
    > In European waters at least, there is one unwritten and unstated rule that
    > supervenes over all others, which is this: SMALL VESSELS GIVE WAY TO BIGGER
    > VESSELS. This applies at all times and in all situations, no matter which
    > vessel has right of way.  So there's the common situation of the collision
    > rules instructing a small vessel that she should stand on and hold her
    > course and speed, until the moment when it becomes dangerous to do so any
    > longer, while the give-way big-ship ploughs on regardless, in the certain
    > knowledge that simple self-preservation will get the smaller stand-on
    > vessel out of the way.
    >
    > I do not claim that every merchant ship behaves in that way, but I would
    > put the figure at 95%. Things are different aboard Naval vessels (both
    > Royal Navy and others), who can be relied on to follow the rules
    > impeccably. Passenger ferries likewise, perhaps because they carry so many
    > potential witnesses aboard.
    >
    > Another situation, which seems to have been accepted by the authorities, is
    > for ships to be ploughing on, at 20 knots or more (40 for fast ferries),
    > without slackening speed, even in quite thick weather, even at night,
    > relying on the uncertain assumption that any small vessel will show up on
    > their radar. They have a schedule to keep to, they tell us, as if that was
    > a valid reason.
    >
    > I've described the situation a small craft has to accept when she tries to
    > cross the English Channel, even in areas that are not marked off into
    > traffic separation zones. Do similar problems occur in American waters, I
    > wonder?
    >
    > And I would point out that in the case of small-craft crossing the English
    > channel, their skippers, mostly, DO know what they're doing and DO have a
    > good grasp of the Colregs (with a few notable exceptions), ARE steering a
    > predictable course from port to port, and are NOT "darting about", except
    > to the extent that they are forced to do so to avoid the traffic.
    >
    > Just another view, to set against Carl's.
    >
    >
    > George.
    > ===============================================================
    > Contact George at george---.u-net.com ,or by phone +44 1865 820222,
    > or from within UK 01865 820222.
    > Or by post- George Huxtable, 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13
    > 5HX, UK.
    >
    >
    
    
    

       
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