Saturday, April 23, 2011

A bit of this and a bit of that, and a lession or two

A recent email with a fellow boater/friend reminded me of a few incidents while traveling north in March. The first occurred in that stretch of the ICW between Wrightsville Beach north to Morehead City.

We happened upon by chance, a group of 3 motors boats and a sail boat. We made the 4th. It is that stretch of the ICW where the bridges that require an opening are sooo very hard to time our arrival. It is not fun to have missed a bridge opening by 5 or 10 min and need to wait for 30-50min trying to hold steady in wind and current for the next opening.

 A woman on the sail boat was yakking at the motor boats, while at a bridge, that they were a "deep draft vessel" and needed a lot more room in the channel. She was none too happy and was coming across as having been grievously wronged by the thoughtless motor boats. Not an uncommon occurrence in our experienced, rightly or wrongly. Some rag heads (sails) think so little of us stink pots (motors). Someone asked how deep was their draft and she replied huffily, 5 feet.

Jeannie and I looked at each other and chuckled because that is our draft. Though in truth we think it is more likely a bit more with fuel and stuff. Typically I treat sail boats "under power"(ie their engine is running) as if the are any another motor boat and operate under the same rules of the road as other motor boats. I am polite and slow down and coordinate an over taking from our speedy 8.5 kts to keep my wake from giving them an unpleasant bounce. As to draft, I look to take my fair share of the channel, not trying to be too piggish. But we are big and take some room to maneuver. The rule here is to be proactive and not surprise others with close quarter maneuverings.

The second occurrence,  Jeannie and I have discussed a couple of times in order to think through what would we have done differently and how should it have played out. First off, this had no bad outcome only some pissed off boaters. We were traveling south with Risky Business, another OR 65, having met up with them in Jacksonville.That day was long, having run south from Vero Beach and entered Lake Worth headed to our nights' stay on the south end of the lake, in Palm Beach. Lots and lots of bridges and no wake zones. Risky Business was in the lead that day and we were following. We had to go through one last bridge to our marina, which was just on the other side of the bridge.

We arrived and waited for the timed opening and Risky Business proceeded through the opening with us following shortly behind. There were two smaller trawlers on the other side which I was vaguely aware of, but truthfully, more focused on following the other OR65 did not pay attention to them. A lady on a north bound trawler "erupted" on channel 16, righteously indignant that we did not standoff and give them the right of way because they were having difficulty holding with the incoming current. She was "yelling" that under the nav rules she had the right of way and we did a wrong by not allowing them through first. She went on for at least a minute or two. Quite the tirade.

I was embarrassed, to be frank. She was correct and we should have stood off and allowed them through first.

We discussed it later and I finally concluded that while she was ultimately right, she was wrong at the same time. When I am in that situation, I always hail the other boat to coordinate a passage. Coming on them as we did, we did not appreciate the current they were in and without them letting us know we could not divine the information. 

From where we stood the current was not a problem and seemed like an ordinary set of circumstances. I was in a line of boats going south positioned as the second boat and frankly saw them off on the other side but nothing special about their positioning. But boy was she hot and was spewing forth for all to hear.

I guess the lesson here is you need to be proactive in all overtaking, crossings and bridges, with other boats where practical and coordinate the positioning. I try not to take the other boats actions for granted thinking they know the circumstances/conditions and the rules. But in this case I did not hail them. My mistake.

Interestingly, we came through that same area again when we were going north in March. It was near the area where they stage for the Palm Beach Boat Show. We came to the same bridge only this time, we were northbound and now we were the ones having trouble in the current holding our position. Turn about is fair play, the current was really ripping and now we were working to keep it aligned to the bridge in a narrow channel with the marina on our port side. There was not a lot of room for maneuvering. A large 70+ft MY  in front of us decided to turn around and go to the end of the line of the south bound boats because of the problems he was having in the current near the bridge. On the other side of the bridge were about 8 boats coming south for the show, the largest at about 110'. Quite a sight. Only this time I called the boats on the other side and asked to have right of way at the opening due to the current and they were quite polite and in agreement. We went through with 2 other motors and the biggest problem was navigating this large gaggle of southbound boats in a narrow channel.

All in all a good lesson.

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