Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vessel encounters drunks. Which rule applies?


Two Sail boats (Wikipedia)
via Bitter End - this  article From The Kitsup Sun  Sailboaters Impede Bainbridge  Ferry, Moon Crew

The story is  that four drunks in a boat forced a Washington State Ferry to take  evasive maneuvers to avoid hitting them.

What was  interesting about the article was the  comments section. It was largely a back and forth as to which rule applied. Was it a  narrow channel?  Special circumstance? do ferries  on the regular run  have special  privileges and so forth. Here is a sample

Correct  me if I am wrong, but according to marine rules I believe a  sail boat  under sail has the right of way over motorized marine traffic.
The  ferry was required to maneuver around the sail boat not the other  way  around.

This is a case of knowing just enough to be  dangerous.  An encounter with a small pleasure craft with four drunks  aboard is not a  case where boaters  need to scramble to review the rule  of the  road. They just need to stay (expletive deleted)  out of the way.

 RULE 2 reads:

Nothing  in these Rules shall exonerate any vessel, or the owner, master  or  crew thereof, from the consequences of any neglect to comply with  these  Rules or of the neglect of any precaution which may be required by  the  ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the   case. 

Four drunks in a sailboat cannot be  depended upon to follow the ordinary practice of seaman. In this case  the sailboat can not safely be treated as a vessel but rather as  a  randomly  moving hazard to navigation.

In a  encounter between  two commercial vessels, experienced  seaman aboard each vessel will  recognize the limitations of the other. In addition contact is often  made via VHF to clarify the situation and to negotiate a passage. This  is often not the case in an encounter between  a  small pleasure craft  and a larger commercial vessel.

Just the fact that a  pleasure vessel would force a rules of the road situation upon a larger,  less maneuverable vessel demonstrates  that the  operator of the  pleasure craft is no seaman.
Unlike the case of an encounter  between two commercial vessels, the situation with a small pleasure  craft  is far less symmetrical. Often the lowest risk choice for the  larger vessel is to hope the smaller vessel has the sense to stay  clear.  When a small craft draws too close and reaches a point  where   only action by the smaller vessel can avoid a collision  the hope is  that an appreciation of the situation  will penetrate past the  portion of the operators  brain that deals with rules of the road  and   into the reptilian part of his brain that fears death.
Bottom line is give the working mariners a break  and stay clear. Well clear.  Please.



This  page, from Charleston Harbor port officials tells it like it is. 

From  a kayak  rental outfit this"We have often heard paddlers assert,  incorrectly, that they have the  "right of way" over all other vessels" ; 

My  post Ship   vs Boat,  who has the Right of Way

My post  Fishing vessels and imaginary lookouts


幸平平平平杰 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Will said...

I agree with commenter 1

Barista Uno said...

How would the master of the large vessel know that those on board the small boat are drunk? Unless they've drank too much that you can smell them from a mile away. The Rules of the Road should be amended to include maritime DUI if this sort of thing happens every so often.

Anonymous said...

The Ferry was in a Narrow Channel, thus trumping the sailing rule.

Rule 9 (b) A vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway.

R. Rodriguez

Ken E. Beck said...

Barista Uno - thanks for the comments. I will post about this again to try and make my point.

RR (Bitter End) thanks for the info, sounds right to me but any rule that results in the outcome that the smaller vessel should stay clear is the correct one.

Oil-Electric said...

To shed more light on this "rights of way" issue. The Washington State Ferry was entering a dog hole, Eagle Harbor (Bainbridge Island on schedule) when the drunks got cute and crossed paths.

Google Earth "Eagle Harbor, Washington" and you will discover the terminal. WSF maintenance facility docks are also located there.

Really dumb, since the two ferrys on this run are 400+ feet long, 200 cars, 2500 walk-ons. See:

While I am not a licensed mariner, I've been around the water all my life, owned four different cruisers, have several versions of Chapman's on my shelf, and attended several Axillary Safe Boating classes.

In this end of the world, it is a de-facto rule to yield to ferry's, especially in a narrow waterway.

Unless, of course, you break down. Obviously the intent here was to moon passengers, which almost cost them their lives!

Another dangerous passion out here is salmon fishing. Fishermen insist on pushing their luck, anchoring close to the ferry lanes.

Law enforcement was notified, but I didn't hear if they caught up with these "bozos."

There is no mention in the story that the men were drunk ...

The sailboat momentarily disappeared from the ferry crew’s view when it went under the ferry’s bow. When it re-emerged, four men on board dropped their pants and “mooned” the crew. They were described as white, in their 30s and appeared to be drinking beer.

And, as a matter of fact, operating a boat while intoxicated gets you the same treatment as operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated in most states.

Boating DUI in WA State - Boating Under the Influence (BUI)

Many people are not aware that in Washington State "Boating Under the Influence" is not only against the law - it is a criminal misdemeanor offense.

The charge of Boating Under the Influence is actually called
"Operation of a Vessel Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor"
and is governed by Revised Code of Washington RCW 79A.60.040.

Police searched the harbor but found no sign of the sailboat.

Reminds me of a rhyme our high school drivers ed instructor told us (back in the day when they actually taught drivers ed.)

It goes: "Here is the grave of Tommy Day, died while assuming the right of way!"

Oil-Electric said...

Sorry, Ken, I failed to check the link to Google.

Type in "Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge, Washington"

You will see the terminal, and just south of it, the WSF maintenance facility. If you use Bing Maps, you will see the two high speed cats that have been sold to the Bay Area.

Robert in Port Townsend

Anonymous said...

The rule of gross tonnage applies. If the other vessel is greatly bigger , stay out of the way.
You wouldn't want your next of kin to know that you were stupid , stubborn and dead all at the same time.