CHIRP Comment: Thirteen reports of encounters with fishing gear were received in 2006; bringing the total to forty-eight since the data collection initiative by the RYA commenced in 2003.
As in previous years, CHIRP will collate the reports received and send them to the MCA, MAIB, NFFO and RYA for consideration with their own data. The following “disidentified” reports are good examples of the types of incident reported involving pot markers.
On passage from France to UK, my yacht had just cleared the main shipping channel and was approaching harbour with about three miles to run. We came across about 12 assorted dark blue plastic household cans some of which appeared to be tied to rope lines with wire and were being used as fishing pot marker buoys. The spring tide was quite strong and some of the plastic cans were level or even just below the water surface. Luckily we managed to spot them and could steer to miss them. But this would probably be impossible in darkness as the dark colour cans would not be visible. I feel that these are a dangerous obstacle to the many leisure craft using the harbour and for any other small craft that may be motoring or sailing in that area.
We were participating in the Round the Island Race under sail, attempting to get past the Needles tidal gate in the company of 30 or 40 other yachts. When approximately 2 cables north north-east of the Needles Lighthouse we were caught up by a fish marker. The grey plastic 5 litre container that was being used was submerged by the new flood and only visible once you were on top of it, at which stage it was too late to take avoiding action. Fortunately being under sail, with the propeller folded, we were able to disengage ourselves. Had we been under motor, it would have been a different story. At the time of the incident we had a full complement of alert crew on continual lookout. The marker, being submerged, showed no wake and was not spotted until alongside and then almost immediately, under the keel. It is worth pointing out that despite 6 eagle eyed watch keepers, this grey marker, even in good visibility and bright sunlight was virtually invisible, whilst during the race other white and orange markers were successfully identified and avoided.
I do many deliveries in yachts by sail and power and have a massive fear of fouling the prop on fishing gear. There seem to be more and more of them out there but on this particular occasion I was horrified and very lucky not to be caught. In between two buoys of the navigating channel (100m wide) slightly south of centre was a lobster pot marking buoy. It was low water slack tide and 4 metres of rope was floating across the channel giving a very high chance of catching it. It is common on well trod paths such as Dungeness to Beachy Head to find very many pots on the straight line particularly off Hastings. The situation is getting very bad.
These reports provide evidence that a part of the fishing community continues to place gear with inadequate marking and little regard for safety of navigation. Even if safety of navigation is not sufficient motivation; the gear costs money and surely it must make sense to mark it properly so that it is not lost unnecessarily?
Other reported incidents have involved encounters with parts of nets and trawls and, whilst some resulted in the loss of propulsion and damage, they do not relate to the issue of gear marking. CHIRP is nevertheless grateful for these reports as they provide an opportunity to remind the fishing and leisure communities of the potential for harm where gear is lost or not disposed of properly. Vessels may foul various types of debris and it is important to have an idea of how such fouling will be dealt with as part of required passage planning.
We were motoring because there was no wind and the vis was excellent. Whilst watching carefully for lobster pot buoys we managed to catch a large piece of stray green trawler net around the propeller. We stopped dead; none of us had seen it floating just below the surface. It was too big for us to shift and without any wind to sail with we were disabled and forced to call out the lifeboat. They told us that we were their third rescue that week caused by discarded trawler net. Apparently it was the bottom end of a beam trawl net. It cost us three days, but fortunately nothing else and we were able to dry out alongside the wall and untangle the net without any other cost and no damage to the prop or engine. The motor cruiser (the second rescue) was not so fortunate and the repair bill looked like being enormous.