Visit Pensacola

What To Do In Fog Season

Published on October 19th, 2015

by Vincent Pica, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
We’ve had some foggy mornings and as we make the “clubhouse turn” towards cool air and warm water, we will have more.

For those of a more scientific-bent, fog that forms when water is warmer than the air is called “steam” fog (fall). Think of that pot of spaghetti water you are boiling. Fog that forms when the water is colder than the air is called “advection” fog (spring). There is a third kind of fog called “radiation” fog. That is the fog that you see float in across the backyard or linger in a dip in a country road. But fog is fog. You can’t see the land or the buoys or, worse, the bow! What to do?

Well, with the dropping price of radar, boats in the mid-20-foot range can now be found to have radar aboard. If you do have radar aboard, read the manual and get familiar with gain controls. I won’t waste space in this magazine lending advice to a skipper that already has a state-of-the-art system aboard on how to use it. Not surprisingly however, the advice below holds for the 65-footer with radar and chart overlay capabilities as well as the skipper in the 17-foot open boat with a 90-hp Merc on the stern. When the fog rolls in…

1. Slow down to “a slow bell,” that is, with forward propulsion necessary to maintain steerage, but no greater. Put on life jackets.

2. While underway and making way, that is, engine in gear, give one “prolonged” blast on your whistle (4-6 seconds). This is specified in the Navigation Rules, Rule 35(a). In fact, the Rules say “not more than 2 minutes apart.” Let me make it plainer. No LESS than every 2 minutes.

3. While underway but not making way, that is, dead stop on the engine but not at anchor, give two “prolonged” blasts, separated by a couple of seconds apart, no less than every 2 minutes. This is Rule 35(b).

4. If necessary to anchor due to visibility (none!), “boats less than 39 feet 4 inches (12 meters) in length may make an efficient sound signal at intervals of not more than two minutes.” In short, it is not specified for boats under 12 meters. Boats larger than 12 meters at anchor must clang their bell five times quickly followed by one prolonged and one short (~1 second) blast in the whistle.

5. Listen. Sound travels more efficiently through fog than clear air. Listen. Bring your engine to dead stop from time to time and listen. Listen for the sound of surf (move away from that!), buoy whistles/horns/bells (move towards that, carefully) or other engines (sound danger whistle right away and take all way off – but don’t turn off the engine!)

So, now you are properly communicating with other boats but you do want to get in out of the fog if you can. How? – WindCheck Magazine, full story

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