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In a mist

Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2008 12:00 pm
by Telo
I know there was a little bit of pee taking following the Chentleman's Cruise, but what do people really think is an appropriate speed for small boats in fog?

I ask this as, on a recent passage (under motor) from Puilladobhrain to Appin, we entered a few miles of fairly thick fog , probably down to about five or six boat lengths (we're 10m) for a considerable distance. Two other boats, on roughly parallel courses, heading for the gap between Kerrera and Bach Island, went in it at around the same time, one with radar fitted, though no idea if it was functional. Don't know about AIS. We had neither, but were carrying a PC plotter.

We were the slowest boat, and, on entering the fog, dropped from about 5.5kts to 4kts (SOG), one of us was on watch at the bow, and we used the fog horn every two minutes or so (we heard no other boat use theirs). When we later emerged we couldn't see either of the other boats; presumably they were too far ahead of us.

I'll admit that we intensely dislike sailing in fog, but were we overdoing the caution? Were we going too slow, and exposing ourselves to the danger of being rammed from astern?

In a Mist

Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2008 5:33 pm
by Pete Cooper
I would do the same - if the engine is going slower it is making less noise, so it might give you more chance to hear any other boats around. I hate fog too.

Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2008 7:11 pm
by Arghiro
It may not make much difference in the event of a ramming & sinking, if you drown. But if you hit them it's your fault, if you go slowly & they hit you, it's their fault.

Providing you survive, the difference could be vital to getting a replacement boat paid for.

Re: In a mist

Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2008 10:28 pm
by ParaHandy
Shard wrote:what do people really think is an appropriate speed for small boats in fog?

I was on a ferry recently (because there wasn't a convenient flight from Rennes, Europe's most reliable airport) going with the neap tide through the Alderney Race. The visibility was nil - easily as bad as on the GC. Having met and tracked the same ferry the previous week, her speed against the spring tide was 18kn reducing to 15kn at the worst.

Unless mistaken, the ferry would be doing approx 18kn through the water. She did not reduce speed nor sound any fog signals.

This ferry passes through the Alderney Race twice a day, every day, nearly all year round. They are obviously therefor experienced and are well equipped .. but .. a yacht can be invisible so, without radar, I wouldn't be at sea in a small boat .. at any speed!

Re: In a mist

Posted: Sun Aug 03, 2008 11:18 am
by BigNick
ParaHandy wrote:This ferry passes through the Alderney Race twice a day, every day, nearly all year round. They are obviously therefor experienced and are well equipped .. but .. a yacht can be invisible so, without radar, I wouldn't be at sea in a small boat .. at any speed!

I am not sure I would want to go through the race in fog, even with radar, especially less so now you've said this!

Posted: Sun Aug 03, 2008 12:47 pm
by bilbo
It's a complex and subjective issue. We're hugely dependent on good vision to maintain our relative safety and avoidance of hazard; we're also very willing to persuade ourselves that electronic gadgets will somehow compensate. I'm persuaded it's appropriate to be seriously worried when viz. is reduced in dense fog and/or rain, and that it's sound to 'get out of the firing line' into shallow, safe water and anchor or moor ASAP. That's what used to happen; now, just about everyone charges along at the same speed as everyone else, in blind trust that 'nothing will happen to me 'cos it hasn't before.'

My take is to reduce speed appropriate to the conditions, put on lights AND LSJs, and forward watch-people who also listen. I make the needed sound signal ( a Plastimo oral horn ) and I stop'n'listen periodically. Every now and then one may hear the Tannoy announcements about 'Will passengers for Mull kindly return to their cars' or, further south, 'The duty-free shop will close in 5 minutes'.

As for 'what speed', I tend to plan pilotage at 6 kts - 'cos most boats will conveniently do that as a base-speed - and run at that in good viz, and 3 kts in poor viz. The mental conversion of time/speed/distance and 'where am I' is really easy - i.e. one cable/600 feet per minute, dropping to one cable per two minutes - and other engines can more readily be heard at that speed-setting. Shard's choice of 4 kts is broadly similar.

Qwessie - did that CalMac ferry pass you guys through the Oban North Channel in the fog? D'you think he could see your mast tops?

Posted: Sun Aug 03, 2008 3:55 pm
by Telo
bilbo wrote:Qwessie - did that CalMac ferry pass you guys through the Oban North Channel in the fog? D'you think he could see your mast tops?

No, to the first, and probably not to the second. We were just about in the North Channel when they made the announcement on 16. We radioed back to let them know that there were two yachts leaving at that time. They acknowledged the call, and we heard no more. We have two fixed radar reflectors, and I presume Eloise had one as well; there was no sea so little chance of wave clutter, so I'd guess they'd clocked us on their radar.

Posted: Sun Aug 03, 2008 4:26 pm
by bilbo
That's of interest. Every little helps. A few years ago, motoring a friend's Rival34 by Ardnamurchan in the smooth, we were passed by the Northern Lights Vessel 'Pole Star' which kindly agreed to monitor and report on our radar signature as we switched between Sea-Me ON and Sea-Me OFF; a Firdell Blipper 210-5 was mast-mounted throughout.

It was reported that our return was visible out to 12 miles with the Sea-Me ON, and just under 3 with it OFF. Beyond 12 miles separation, the vessels were mutually screened by intervening land, but the inference was clear to us.

Posted: Mon Dec 01, 2008 4:22 pm
by aquaplane
I had my first experience of moving about in fog on Saturday, it certainly concentrates the mind.

The ferry may have been cancelled, we never saw one, but we wouldn't have even if it was running. There was little to no traffic about, that we saw, and we didn't hear anything.

We did slow down to 4 knots and both of us were on watch/listening. The fog horn was used for the first time too, we didn't hear any others.

With no points of reference it was difficult to steer a straight course, and I didn't want to watch the compass constantly as I was busy looking for a white ferry coming out of the white mist.

A couple of times we saw the shore line ahead and had to slow down to work out where we were before carrying on.

And this was on Windermere, I don't want to do it again in a rush and certainly not at sea.

Posted: Mon Dec 01, 2008 8:25 pm
by sahona
We had a bit of really poor vis this year in Ireland and up the WC (around the time of the famous malts shambles) and had been involved in the Med as well. We slow down, knock the engine to neutral, and listen periodically, and do have radar, but - like in your car on ice -you just don't go too fast. Most of us can survive a controlled collision.
Bilbo's question about mastheads is pertinant and probably why endurance 35s have a crows nest.
I think there probably is a place in the already electro-saturated boat for a masthead camera (rotateable) and -possibly- a waterproof dangly one - (probably USB), for when things happen down below. Certainly, some of the fog I've been in has been surprisingly shallow, and is probably the reason why taller boats seem to be acting irresponsibly.
not that I'm condoning high speed blind-man's-buff, the highest bridge overlooking a forest of masts won't see fishing boats/ logs/ containers/ potbuoys/ pedallos etc. and is usually going too fast to react.
It's our job to keep out of their way, and hit other things slowly -if we must.

Re: In a mist

Posted: Mon Dec 01, 2008 10:00 pm
by Windfinder
Interesting question.

I crossed the channel in a gale a short while back.

With a F8 behind me and bigish sea, surfing at 12 knots was not unusual slowing down didn't seem easy or desirable. (I'd rather surf at 12 than wallow at 4.)

With spells of rain which dropped the viz to almost nothing, I confess, it was pretty worrying crossing the (for want of a better word) shipping lanes but what else can you do? Can't turn round when the viz closes in with a F8 behind you.

The good news is ships really do slow down when the viz closes in. Do small yachts need to slow down with average speeds of 5-6 knots? I'd say no. Perhaps you shouldn't have a noisy engine on though.

All my own opinion, and shouldn't be taken as advice for anyone else.

Posted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:06 am
by claymore
There is probably no such thing as a correct answer to this as I feel, rather like being in fog, the topic is wrapped in subjectivity and the array of responses probably supports that notion.
An experienced mariner such as Para would choose not to be there at all - having been completely lost immediately we came out of the bay at Craighouse on a simple course for Gigha - I tend to agree with him. Time, or rather obligations and commitments often dictate that we are in places we would choose not to be and in those situations then the best must be made of bad jobs.
Like so many outdoor activities - all the gear and technology that can be afforded never really can make one safe.
Claymore's personal question in this is 'Are you happy that you are working within your capabilities?' An answer is usually forthcoming and from there a decision. A decision that is seldom based on what others are doing, although as a final arbiter that can sometimes affirm my own decision. The decision about whether or not Cuan will go for example or whether its worth waiting a while, based on the progress or otherwise of some hardy soul who is in there a bit sooner - or later than they ought to be.
Thank you for the opportunity to exercise the brain and the memory at this early hour - the intrepid Hospitality Management BA (hons) students are in for a treat at 09:00hrs

Posted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:09 am
by claymore
Just looked at the original post by the big droopy.
We went through the fog on Eloise with nothing more than senses honed to a fine pitch. No instruments as Para had packed his laptop.
Muzzy was so disappointed not to have hit anything that he opted for the back of the truck on the M74