Friday, May 25, 2012

Uneducated recreational boaters irk me.

One of the things that irks the living hell out of me as a professional seaman is uneducated recreational boaters.

Sailboaters as a general rule come in two sizes. They are either the best out there or without a doubt, they are the all time worst. The rule of thumb is that if they are experienced cruisers they are the best. If they are weekenders (most are) they are the worst.

Ships, tugs and barges are pretty heavy vessels and the laws of physics hold true to all things, including ships, tugs and barges. A body in motion tends to stay in motion and it is this law of physics that means that a heavily laden ship can not stop on a dime and give nine cents change. It can take literally miles to bring a ship or heavy barge to a complete stop.

Generally a barge at sea is towed behind a tug by either (not too often these days) a long rope or a cable. The barge is generally quite a ways behind the tug, a quarter mile is not uncommon. It is done to keep the tug and barge in step with one another so it rides evenly without jerking on the cable and damaging the tug or the barge. The weight of the long cable acts as a shock absorber.

Every once in a while some idiot that has his head where the sun doesn't shine tries to go between the tug and her tow. Many get away with it, but every so often someone doesn't and their boat gets damaged by the tow cable or they wind up getting run over by the barge or sometimes both.

Back during my sailing days I knew to keep well clear of tugs and ships because I did not necessarily run my sailboat by the official Rules of the Road. I preferred to run it by another set of rules known informally as the Law of Gross Tonnage.

Unlike most, I wasn't afraid to turn on the VHF and make passing arrangements with whatever larger vessel I came across and when I was taking my sailboat up the Frasier River I got on the horn and made arrangements with a couple of grain transporters. The pilots were glad to hear from me and was complimented for giving them the courtesy of keeping then posted as to what my ententions were.

Most recently we were trying to anchor in a harbor when a sailboat skipper decided he was too lazy to tack and ran it in so close to the bow of the barge I was running that I had to hold off on dropping the hook until they passed.

The instant they cleared and it was safe I let her go with a loud rattling of chain and the anchor hit with a loud splash. I ran to the side of the barge and watched the startled sailboaters.

"Hey! You almost scratched my anchor!" I shouted in my best Rodney Dangerfield voice.

What were these people thinking?

They obviously didn't know about tug and barge rigs or they would have steered clear of us.

The truth is that these yachties, or a lot of them, think that they are lord and master of the entire ocean when they are at the helm. There are an awful lot of them that do not even know that the rules of the road exist much less know what they are.

I have nothing against a person siglehandedly winning a Darwin award, but I do get upset when they drag others into their little game.

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