Back when life was hard

Published on March 24th, 2021

The COLREGS are the international “rules of the road” to prevent collisions at sea and its most basic tenet is to only proceed at a safe speed so the yacht can take “proper and effective action to avoid collision and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions.”

But avoiding collision requires visibility which gets harder in fog, and which once was far harder than today. You have to be of a certain age to recall boating on a foggy day before pinpoint navigation. Here’s one of the stories:

From Chris Caswell:
In the early ‘60s, I had borrowed a Columbia 5.5 Meter from my boss, Ed Feo at Marina Sailboats in Long Beach (CA), to race in the Midwinters in Long Beach Harbor. I was sailing in PHRF with a couple of buddies from Long Beach State and all was going well until a fog that would do London proud dropped in, giving us visibility barely past our bow.

We were quite rightly terrified, especially since we could hear the ominous sound of VERY large ships moving around us. And then there was an unbelievably loud rattling and crashing that seemed right next to us, and a moment later our boat, crew and sails were covered by a thick layer of reddish-brown dust.

Sailing another hundred feet, we encountered a solid wall that turned out to be an immense tanker that had just dropped anchor just upwind of us. That was it. We groped our way home, lookout peering into the mist from the bow. It still gives me shivers to think of it.

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