Sunday, October 16, 2011


Enroute ICW, Surf City NC
34 28.80 N 077 28.99 W

A great advantage to writing your own blog is that your can air your pet peeves without contradiction.  Today, I'm going to indulge.

The waterway is not a superhighway.   It is not a highway at all.  People who drive their boats as they do their cars on the highway are a menace.  

  • The other day, coming into Beaufort, two sailboats and a megayacht came up behind us.  Megayacht?  Yes, it was maybe 80 feet long and according to our AIS, even its dinghy towed behind was equipped with it's own AIS transmitter.  That's right.  We saw both the vessel Twilight and the vessel T/T Twilight on the AIS about 50 feet apart.

    Anyhow, as I approached a bend in the channel they all caught up with me. Twilight got on the VHF and asked for permission to pass, very professionally.  I said, "Come ahead Captain on my port side. I'll slow down for you."     But I looked behind and the first of the sailboats was less than one boat length behind my stern, and the second sailboat a boat length behind the second boat's stern.  I called on the VHF; "Sailboat on my stern, I'm going to slow down."  No response; I dared not slow.  He probably didn't listen to the radio.  So what happened.  Both sailboats pulled out to pass on my port simultaneously with Twilight passing.  Twilight was forced to the extreme port side and Tarwathie forced to the extreme starboard.

    Even though the channel may be as wide as a three lane highway, it isn't  It is more like a one lane highway with wide shoulders.  The shoulders may or may not be dredged to minimum depth.  The overtaking boat has the burden.  The overtaken boat has the privilege of maintaining course and speed right down the middle.  It is a courtesy to ask the overtaken boat to move to the side and/or slow down.

    What did those sailboats do wrong?  In chronological order:  1) They should have anticipated Twilight would pass, and hung back.   2) They should never have planned to pass exactly on a bend.  3) They should have listened to Twilight on the radio.  4) They should not have tailgated me or each other.  5) They should have listened to me on the radio and acknowledged.  6) They should not have passed me while Twilight was already passing.  That's an awful lot of errors in 90 seconds.

  • On two occasions yesterday sailboats passed us as we were passing under a 65 foot bridge.   That's an absolute no no.  When passing under a bridge you are likely to encounter sudden, strong, unexpected gusts of wind or bursts of cross currents.  You must be at highest vigilance and ready to correct course deviations.  To pass another boat at that time is lunacy.  Even meeting a boat coming the other way under a ridge is something to avoid if possible.

  • Approaching the inlet near Swansboro, the waters were mobbed by small boats.  Most of them were anchored and fishing.  There were hundreds of them.  Other boats were in a big hurry to get out to sea via the inlet or in a hurry to get to some other fishing spot.  They zoomed past at speeds between 30 and 65 miles per hour, weaving in an out among boats.  Libby and I were horrified.  That's much too fast for congested conditions.  Fatal accidents are likely.

    Also, even though high speed boats make very little wake, that does not mean that they should come as close as 3 feet to other boats.  Good grief.  That close at that speed even a sneeze can lead to a collision.
The USCG rules of the road are not explicit on any of those things.   I think boater education should cover such common sense rules that go beyond the law.  After all, the inexperienced boater violating those rules is most likely to injure himself or his boat first.

Thanks for the opportunity to vent.

p.s. We sat out the nice balmy weather at Oriental.  Now, we're facing a whole week of adverse winds, while motoring down the ICW.   Libby is disappointed to say the least.  She wants to be out at sea.  The first opportunity appears to be next Saturday, the 22nd.  Meanwhile we're poking along.  Mile Hammock last night.  Wrightsville Beach tonight.   We're going to try to get in to Carolina Beach State Park Monday night.  Never been there.

1 comment:

  1. Dick, glad to hear that you did not play "Bumper Boats" in the ICW. We have had a few similar experiences ourselves including a terrifying passing in the Rock Pile, near Myrtle Beach. We now keep an air horn at the ready. Those 5 short blasts of the danger signal usually, but not always, gets someones attention. Fair winds and quiet anchorages, Jeff & Wendy aboard Calypso


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