Updates: March 2000
|Daily Updates: May 2000
Overcast and cloudy
Latitude: 6 deg 54N
Longitude: 99 deg 23W
Wind Direction: Variable
Wind Speed: <1 Knot
Sea State: 0
Swell(s) Height: 3-5 Foot
Sea Temperature: 87.8°F (31°C)
Barometric Pressure: 1011 MB
Visibility: 10-25 Nautical Miles
Ham & Cheese Pastry
Fresh Pineapple and Mango
Fornaris Pizzas (spinach/feta, pepperoni, sausage/onion, plain)
Beef and Barley Soup
Deep Fried Prawns
Cherry Cream Pie
RULES OF THE ROAD
The Rules of the Road
May 7, 2000
By Capt. Eric Buck
Earlier in the cruise, I wrote about navigation and
shiphandling. These are relatively simple undertakings on the high
seas when a vessel is by herself and has ample sea room all around.
Adding traffic (other vessels) to the mix makes the navigation/shiphandling
equation a little more interesting and complex! There are thousands
of ships, boats and watercraft of every description upon our seas
and waterways. Somehow, they must get to where they are going without
bumping into each other. Unlike driving on a road or highway, there
are no double-yellow lines, traffic lights, or yield signs out
on the water to regulate the flow of traffic. And, just like there
are rules for driving a car in traffic, so there are rules for
driving a ship or boat around other vessels.
One of the curious things about going to sea is that
you can sometimes go for weeks at a time without seeing any other
ships or boats. Then, suddenly, you detect another ship by radar
at a range of 24 miles, and you begin tracking her (plotting her
movement relative to your own). Somewhere between a range of 12
and 14 miles, you begin to see her masts poking above the horizon.
At 9 miles away, you can see her hull, and it becomes clear that
your courses are converging. In fact, your plot reveals that you
and the other ship will be at the same place at the same time!
That’s what sailors call a collision course and it needs
to be avoided! What is the chance that two ships leaving different
ports at different times, traveling at different speeds, and going
to different destinations, will arrive at the same place at the
same time in the middle of the ocean? The chance must be astronomical,
but I’ve seen it happen often enough. So, how do these two
ships avoid running into each other?
Fortunately, there are navigation rules that govern
how ships, boats, and watercraft interact with each other. Sailors
call them the Rules of the Road. The Rules are international in
scope, and cover crossing, meeting and overtaking (passing) situations
to name a few. The Rules also differentiate between power driven
vessels, sailing vessels, and vessels of different sizes. Check
out the slide show to see what the rules are when two power-driven
vessels are in sight of one another, and are either meeting head
on, crossing or overtaking.
Beyond the basic relationships described in the Rules
of the road slide show, the Rules of the Road get very technical.
For example, a power-driven vessel must stay out of the way of
a sailing vessel, but a sailing vessel must not get in the way
of a power-driven vessel that can safely navigate only within the
confines of a narrow channel. A fishing vessel enjoys certain privileges
when engaged in fishing; when not fishing, she must obey the same
rules as any other power-driven vessel of her size. The Rules also
define how ships interact in any condition of visibility, when
in sight of one another, and when operating close to, but not in
sight of, each other (as when operating in fog or rain).
Besides defining who shall
give way to whom, the Rules prescribe lights to be shown and
whistle and bell signals to be sounded. The positioning and color
of lights on a vessel are critical to discerning the type of
vessel and which way it is going at night. This determines who
gives way and who holds her course. In addition, by sounding
whistle or bell signals, you can let other vessels in the area
know what you’re
doing. In spite of their complexity, the beauty of the Rules
is that, when properly applied, vessels can meet and pass each
other in safety without the need to guess what the other vessel
These days, most vessels carry
two-way radios for communicating with each other. Using the radio
to let other vessels know what you are doing or to make passing
agreements with them helps us follow the Rules, and greatly improves
safety on the water. This is of enormous help when all the things
I have talked about -- navigation, shiphandling, and traffic
-- come together on a dark, foggy night off a rocky shoreline.
That is when a mariner’s
knowledge and skill are put to the test.
In closing, I have an observation
and a recommendation. You need a license to drive a car, and
you need a license to drive a big ship. But you don’t need
a license to operate a recreational boat. Whether driven by power
or sail, a boat is a vehicle just like a car or ship and can
be just as dangerous. Statistics show that many boating accidents
occur because the Rules of the Road were ignored. Even though
recreational boats do not require a licensed operator, they must
still abide by the Rules. If you and your families are recreational
boaters, please operate your boat responsibly and know your obligations
under the Rules of the Road. Copies of the Navigation Rules are
available at most any boating supplies store or from the US Government
Printing Office. Further information and boating safety courses
can be obtained through your local Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Throughout these essays, I have used the
words vessel, ship, boat and watercraft fairly interchangeably.
But did you know that each one has a specific technical definition?
In nautical terms, a vessel is any object or craft that can be
used for transportation upon the water. By this definition, both
a log raft and a super tanker are vessels! The word boat generally
refers to small craft. As a rule of thumb, sailors say a boat is
any vessel that can be lifted out of the water and placed aboard
a ship. These days, we use the word ship to describe any large
vessel. But the original definition of ship has nothing to do with
the big, power-driven vessels of today. The word ship was originally
used to describe a sailing vessel that was 100% square rigged.
A fine example of a ship is at the Maritime Museum in Honolulu,
Hawaii. The Falls of Clyde is a four-masted tall ship that is completely
square-rigged. Another beautifully restored vessel with square
sails resides in Melville’s home port of San Diego. She is
the Star of India and because her aftermost mast is fore-and-aft
rigged, she is a bark rather than a ship.