Circumstances: -Daylight, wind SW F5-6, heading 010deg.(T), visibility excellent (>12nm), steep quartering sea from SW making handling difficult, speed 8 knots in troughs & 12 knots on waves.
Vessel/crew: -Twin screw motor yacht, 10 metres, well equipped with integrated radar/chart-plotter, VHF, radar reflector etc. Skipper 40 years experience, crew 10 years experience.
The incident: – Position approximately 2.25nm SSW from the Nab Tower, holding a steady course of 010(T).
We had been keeping a good lookout, watching shipping approaching and leaving the Nab deep water channel, the surrounding area, and crossing East-West.
One of the vessels was a large commercial vessel.. There were no vessels astern of us, & no other small craft in the area.
At 1610 what we later established to be the xxxxxxx was on a reciprocal course 190(T) approx. She was clearly shaping to pass us port to port from the aspect presented visually. We did not plot a CPA, as the fact that she was going to pass well clear was evidenced by the radar range & bearing markers.
At 1618, when she was about ¼ mile away, bearing 20deg. on our port bow, she altered course about 40deg. to port across our bows, creating an immediate risk of collision. We immediately altered course 70deg. to port to place the other vessel on our starboard beam in accordance with Rule 17a(ii). Turning to starboard would, in the conditions, have meant lying beam onto the seas & leave us closer under her bow when we were unsure that she had seen us. This action removed the risk of collision & reduced our speed to 5 knots, though making handling even harder as we were now heading into the steep seas.
As she passed us we easily saw her name on her starboard bow with the naked eye. We called her on CH16. An officer replied promptly. I explained that we were the vessel across whose bows she had just turned, creating a risk of collision. He answered “so what’s the problem?” In rather more detail I explained that she had altered course across our bows in contravention of the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collision at Sea, as he seemed unaware of these. Again he showed no recognition of the risk. I said that I would be reporting the incident. At this point he asked for our position, which I gave, commenting that he was also abusing his size and power. Following this I terminated the exchange and recorded the incident in our vessel’s log.
This incident was reported to both CHIRP and the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB).
Unfortunately the date the reporter gave to both MAIB and CHIRP was wrong. The MAIB therefore spent some time establishing that there was no ferry in that vicinity. It then went back to the reporter, who corrected the date by one day. The MAIB then went back to the ferry company, whose account of distances and actions was different to the reporters. Unfortunately the time lapse meant that the ship’s VDR data had been overwritten, so MAIB could not look at objective data.
Lessons from this incident include:
- A reminder for all seafarers that perception of safe distances may be very different between types of craft. For example, if you are on the bridge of a large vessel, passing close to a small boat may appear to you to pose no risk. However if you are on a small boat when a large vessel alters course towards you at close range and you do not know whether she has seen you, the situation may give considerable anxiety.
- Think about how your actions are perceived in the other vessel
- Report serious near misses to the Coastguard at the time
- If reporting to MAIB and/or CHIRP, please double-check the data.