Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Texas Chicken

Via gcaptain this time lapse photo of a transit of the Houston Ship Channel is very interesting. - I think I watched it 3 or 4 times. You can see from the video that there is not much room for error.

I didn't see an encounter on the video between two big ship but when they meet it's called "Texas Chicken" UPDATE: Part two here has video of the Texas Chicken ....... at 500 kts. And scroll down for photos.

From the Reporter-News Online Texas News back in '02
"HOUSTON (AP) - Texas Chicken isn't for the faint of heart."

"But for vessels headed in opposite directions on the Houston Ship Channel, it's the only way to pass. The trick involves water pressure. The scary part is that ships have to head right at each other for it to work."

"In Texas Chicken, 100-foot-wide ships as long as three football fields head straight at each other down the center of the 400-foot-wide channel. At a distance of about a half-mile, the pilots signal each other as to which side they plan to pass on."

"The water displaced by the bows of the ships moves them away from each other and toward the sides of the 40-foot-deep(sic) channel, then the suction of the displaced water flowing in behind the ships naturally pulls them back to the center."

This series of photos is from the U.S. Coast Guard

Bow of each ship is even with the other, water pressure is pushing the bows apart
Coast Guard photographer gets a little trigger happy.

Hard left! Time to swing the stern out of the way.

Running on opposite courses - Time for the "hearty pilot wave"

Pilots each steer to keep the sterns apart as suction at the stern pulls the two ships together

Center up in the channel and get straighten out.

Time for the captain to switch to decaf. Houston pilots report the maneuver unnerves some captains.

From the Reporter-News Online again:

"Pilots say the people most frightened by Texas Chicken are the captains of deep sea ships docking at the Port of Houston for the first time.

"In the deep sea, if you see another ship coming from five miles away, you move far away to avoid any chance of hitting it," Brown said. "Blue water captains in the Houston Ship Channel for the first time will say to us, 'Captain, do you see that ship a mile out? A half-mile out?' We just say, 'Yes, sir.' Or sometimes, 'What ship?'"
What ship???
One might wonder about the accident rate in Houston. The graph below, from "Minding the Helm seems to show it is high. This graphic shows the accident rates at some major U.S. ports, that bar that soars above the others is the Mississippi, the second highest is Houston.

It looks bad for Houston but this graph is misleading. It shows incidents per transit. In incidents per mile Houston is roughly the same as the other U.S. ports. Of course if you have a long transit.......

The more difficult section is further up, where the video starts and beyond. - I got hit by the squall just after letting the tugs go having pulled off the pier. At bare steerage, with no tugs in clam winds no problem , in 35 kts on the beam, the wind has the ship.

At blue water: news of my escape, Paul the pirate has a great post on the transit from the point of view of a helmsman, Paul reports: "I can toss a rolled-up newspaper onto the deck of the other ship" - a good read.

An article with a little background on the Canal here.


Eloise said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eloise said...

That is SO COOL! I am a HUGE fan of yours. We MUST get together sometime and hobnob.

Signed an important lawyer who hobnobs, and is also a fan of Eloise Saz.

Unknown said...

The width of the channel in the area shown is 530 feet. The maximum combined beams of two ships that can meet in the bay is 310 feet.