When patience is a virtue

Published on March 28th, 2021

Avoiding collision requires visibility which is hard in the fog, and once was a whole lot harder before pinpoint navigation tools. But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and provides good stories… here’s a couple:

From Chris Darling:
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 a couple of stories:

It was in the 1990s, while on a ‘boy’s weekend’ passage from Ostende to Ipswich, we got enveloped in thick fog in the southern North Sea. We were in my little Beneteau 285, had cast off into a cold drizzly dawn about 5:00am, hungover after too much Belgium beer, mussels, and chips the night before. It had seemed a good idea at the time.

At around 8:00am, a thick blanket of fog descended. All we had was a Decca position finder, and it was flashing it’s all too common message: POSITION SUSPECT. Grrrr. We were entering the world’s busiest shipping lane in thick fog, with uncertainty of our location.

So we found a buoy at I think the Wenduine Bank and hove too. We circled around and around the buoy. We could hear the worrying, spine jangling sounds of numerous ships’ horns, and the throb, throb of engines. We strained into the mist but nothing could be seen. Sometimes I imagined the cliff of a tanker’s bow overhead, but only a small fishing boat came into view.

We circled and counter circled about 50m from the buoy for hours. At one point we unwisely tried to tie onto it, thinking we could grab some sleep. The wind kept pushing us onto the unforgiving metal: clang, clang. There seemed to be a magnetic attraction. So we gave up on that.

At about 2:00pm, the fog gave way to a cold northerly. Tired and exhausted we bore off for Ramsgate, getting home for a hot bath by supper time!

The next weekend we sailed in sparkling sunshine, before a southwesterly home!

From Craig Warner; Vernon Hills, IL:
It was at the finish line of the 1998 Chicago Mac Race when the fog had reduced visibility to near zero. As we approached, the bow of a freighter loomed out of the mist (click here). The freighter had come to a complete stop and we conversed with a deckhand as we sailed by. The deckhand told us they were unable to proceed west bound due to the over a 100 sailboats showing on their radar between the freighter’s current position and the Mackinac Bridge area.

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