Commercial Traffic

From Tom Behrle, on the RC Boat:

Last night was challenging in wind (both velocity and direction changes), current and more importantly - ship traffic.

I have to tell you that I was disappointed that we received two "Five Blasts" warnings. We'd had not received one of those in about a year.

I must tell you however, that I not only agreed with the two blasts, I saw two other issues that would have easily garnered additional "fivers". Granted I was several hundred yards away, and my perspective is different, but they both looked dangerous to me. You know you are on a beat right to that green can, and you know that straight line is right along the channel and the ship isnt straying out of the channel-but the ship has no idea what you are doing or where you are going.

I call the harbormaster every week to find out whats going on for our safety and yours.
I announce what I know - to warn you all and to also let the ships know that we know what they are doing.
Prior to last night they have actually been quite friendly to us on the radio, a change from a few years ago.

I know you are all very competent skippers, any of you could skipper any boat with my kids on board crossing the atlantic.
Please, please stay away from them. If you bag the race, you bag the race. Its never worth getting us kicked out of the water on tuesdays. We're sailing in highly active commercial area, under the "permission" of homeland security and the coast guard.

one more thing:

two weeks ago I tested our emergency text message system on the night thunderstorms were developing but fizzled out.
hopefully 2 people on your boat received the text message. This will only be used in announcements in addition to VHF where we think the line of sight VHF signal would be iffy, ie, at the dock.

RC limo driver

Replies to this Topic

Tom (and the group) -

First, thanks for all your efforts on our behalf, and for the gentle words you chose for this email.

May I respectfully request that you go into more detail about what you saw in connection with the two "five blast" warnings?  When you're racing, it's difficult to monitor the positions of all of the boats (especially in multiple fleets), and so it's also difficult to distinguish between blasts that are meant as general warnings, blasts that are meant for another boat or group of boats, and blasts that are meant for your boat in particular.  I don't think I was infringing on ships last night, but if it looked like I did, I'd want someone to tell me that.

I think we should treat every "five blast" as a case study for the group: what happened, who was involved, what do we need to do differently to make sure it doesn't happen again.  The possibility of losing our authorization to sail in the river should be motivation enough, but we're also talking about the possibility of a collision that could destroy a boat or injure sailors.  I don't think all the silver at the Commodore's Ball comes close to justifying that kind of risk.



From Tom Behrle, on the RC Boat:

first one appeared to be from the coal ship and Infrared was crossing their bow as infrared was pointed to seagirt now heading away from the course.
Im sure infrared thought they were headed out of the ships way, but they kept moving "with the ship" as the ship turned
to get into the coal plant. in hindsight infrared should have gone the opposite way towards ft mchenry.

second one was directed at numerous boats as green evergreen ship was heading out to make their turn around the red cans. Im sure it appeared to them that about 5 boats were in that vicinity headed in a number of different directions.

a potential third I thought surely was coming was the fish was heading up the edge of the channnel pointed at the green D
in a dead straight line as the coal ship was coming down the channel, appearing to scrape the fish logo off the side of the boat. but no blast.

a potential fourth was a starter (cant remember who it was) pre start heading toward seagirt as the first ship of the night was leaving up the channel. this boat got back in time for the start, but the ship doesnt know what were all doing.

a potential fifth was coure de leone had gybed to get out of the way of the coal ship coming down the channel (a good idea at the time), but their wind had died and it looked iffy. im sure tony was ready with engine key in hand.

Tom Behrle

From Rick Franz, on Thin Float:

Not for nothing but there are other possibilities.  I think that with such proximity to so many racing sailboats, especially during turning and departure maneuvers with tugs, there probably seemed a serious threat to the Commercial Captain's and they wanted to be very clear that we knew they were there.  In an abundance of caution, any Captain might consider the five blast hail as their maneuvers develop into the race course with 20 or so sail boats.
The five blast does have multiple meanings from a variety of sources:
"Please make clear your intentions."danger signal, which is 5 or more short rapid blasts."
"Sound your horn five or more times to warn other boaters of danger in the area."
"This is a generic warning. While it doesn't let other boaters know what they should be looking for, they know that they should focus their attention and be on the lookout for something out-of-the-ordinary."
So, in MY mind the 5-horn is a warning of potential danger, and frankly, I am glad they throw that hail as they maneuver out there.  They aren't screaming at you with the 5-horn, they are getting your immediate attention and telling you that you now have a situation to respond to.
I think BCYA culture on this comes from a  Coastie telling us a few years back to be careful.  I think he may have overemphasized the interpretation of the signal, at least as far as current understanding of its meaning is concerned.

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