How did I get here and other questions

Published on May 12th, 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 are two of them:

From Paddy Boyd:
It was winter in the 1980s, I was a junior deck officer on a freighter picking up lumber products on the BC coast. We were due to sail from New Westminster, down the Fraser River and across the Georgia Strait to Vancouver Island. The fog at 2am was pea-soup thick. A decision was made to sail, taking into account the operational ship’s radar and the lack of other traffic in the river.

I was sent forward for departure and after the forward gang had tidied up the lines, the bridge instructed me to remain on fo’c’sle with the bosun in case we need to drop anchor in a hurry. I climbed onto the bow platform, some 300 feet from the completely invisible bridge, and set about reporting the little that I could see via walkie-talkie.

“Two lights on the starboard bow, could be a tug and a tow,” I recounted. Looking directly down, I reported that we were running into a log boom and that I could now see the bank close on the port side. And returning to look ahead, I observed that the two lights I had previously seen on the starboard bow were now on the port bow and it was not a tug and tow but a “TRAIN”!

Just then the ship came to a gentle stop some 50 feet shy of the bank as the deeper stern section encountered the river bed. Thankfully, no pollution, and damaged repaired by a two week stay in drydock. I often wondered how the train driver described it to his colleagues.

From Guy Nowell, Editor, Sail-World Asia:
One of the Hong Kong – Macau Races, many years ago, sometime in the 1990s. Race there, party hard, race back again. We were an X-99 called Fast Exit.

It was some sort of foggy, or at least misty, from the start in Hong Kong Waters. We went round the north end of Lantau Island in order to avoid the high speed jetfoil traffic crossing the Pearl River, and then the fog really rolled in.

We were now working on dead reckoning. There was breeze, but really we had very little idea of the flow coming down the river and setting us to the south. Eventually we saw through the murk Mad Max, a Tayana 55 – with radar! So of course we followed them, but when we drew closer the skipper hailed us: “Do you have any idea where we are?” Oh dear, their radar was under repair.

We called Race Control, and were ignominiously towed to the finish by a Macau Port Authority launch, having missed the harbor entrance by about 3nm, and after passing through the prohibited area of the Macau Wave Monitoring Station along the way.

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