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    Re: A few questions for the pros
    From: Lu Abel
    Date: 2005 Jun 17, 12:29 -0700

    Bill wrote:
    >>Shipping lanes are intended to separate traffic going in different
    >>directions (eg, up-lake and down-lake in your example) by providing
    >>specific areas for vessels to operate in while going in opposite
    >>directions.  With respect to the issue you raise about a commercial
    >>vessel being out of the charted lane, most commonly the regulations
    >>would specify that it must remain in the charted lane as long as it was
    >>transiting in the direction of the lane (and of the proper size to be
    >>required to use the lane).  But they may be a bit more lax with a vessel
    >>going in the direction of a lane that strays outside of it by getting
    >>too far off center.
    > In the process of downloading Coast Pilot 6. Point blank, how far off the
    > center of a lane can a vessel stray in general?  At some point the lanes
    > converge at the harbor or a distance away from the harbor, and tolerance
    > should be pretty tight?  If it's a case of go anywhere you please, what good
    > are lanes?
    > 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.
    Commercial vessel lanes have a charted width.  One would have to look at
    the regulations for a specific traffic separation scheme, but in general
    if the regs are applicable to a vessel then it should stay in the
    designated lane.  Perhaps in your example, the master knew (either via
    radar or Vessel Traffic Control) that there was no other shipping in the
    vicinity and he could therefore be a bit sloppy about entering the
    proper lane.
    > 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.
    I understand the racer's viewpoint.   Skippers driving large commercial
    vessels know their ships take a considerable amount of time (and
    therefore distance) to alter course and/or stop, so they get *very*
    nervous when a pleasure craft (especially one that technically has the
    right-of-way over them) gets too close.  There was a widely publicized
    incident in San Francisco Bay about 15 years ago where a top skipper (I
    think it was Lowell North, as in North Sails) cut about 50' in front of
    a ship during a race.   The skipper reported him and he was fined a fair
    amount (on the order of $1,000) by the Coast Guard for failing to stay
    clear of the vessel (I think it technically had ROW because it was
    operating in a narrow channel).   North argued that 50' was more than
    enough for safe passage in front of the ship and that as a world-class
    racing skipper he had his vessel totally under control.  The Coast Guard
    was unimpressed...
    Lu Abel

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