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    Re: A few questions for the pros
    From: Carl Herzog
    Date: 2005 Jun 17, 10:05 -0400

    Bill wrote:
    >In our case, the vessel was coming from the northwest.  Our course from
    >Chicago to Michigan City was approx. 108 d, and the freighter was running
    >approx. 140 d.  Suspect she had crossed the multitude of northbound and
    >southbound lanes to the west at close to a right angle. After our encounter
    >she did alter course, so guess she was slipping into a southbound lane to
    >her destination.  But it was a bit of a surprise to see a big ol' gal 5+ nm
    >outside the lane.
    Bill, I took a look at a chart of Lake Michigan to get a better sense of
    what you were saying. The dotted lines you're seeing on the chart,
    indicating directions for northbound and southbound traffic are not
    mandatory shipping lanes. These are just recommended courses suggested
    by the regional shipping associations -- in this case, the Lake
    Carriers' Association and the Canadian Shipowners' Association. A ship
    has no legal obligation to follow these suggested courses, although it
    would prudent for a captain who's deviating widely from local accepted
    practices to stay in communication with area traffic and make his
    intentions well known.
    A mandatory shipping lane would be indicated by solid arrows showing the
    directions, dotted lines showing the outer boundaries and purple shaded
    areas indicating the buffer zone between lanes. For more on these and
    other charts features, you can download a pdf copy of Chart #1 "Nautical
    Chart Symbols, Abbreviations and Terms" from the National Geo-Spatial
    Intelligence Agency (formerly known as NIMA, and better known as the DMA
    before that):
    >I have noted the occasional article in sailing magazines by folks who make
    >their living on large vessels--and also pleasure sail--about proximity
    >between pleasure craft and commercial vessels. As a racer, a one-foot miss
    >is as good as a mile to me.  It appears to the mariner on the bridge of a
    >large commercial vessel, anything less than a mile from a pleasure craft
    >(whose skipper's knowledge/skills are unknown) is a very uncomfortable
    >situation for the commercial driver; so try to conduct myself in a manner
    >where everyone is not only safe but comfortable.
    As you hinted, 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

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