I had left port single handed, under sail making about 3 knots through the water. I became aware of a sea-going tug heading towards me from astern. It had a large ‘bone in its teeth’ and a fan of breaking waves behind it. It was doing 10 to 15 knots.
I remained under autohelm to keep a straight course while observing the vessel, but with my hand over the controls in case it became necessary to alter course. Only when the tug was about 100m away was it apparent that it would pass me close on my starboard side. It would have been clear from the bridge that I was watching the tug closely. As it got closer it gave a distinct ‘jink’ TOWARDS me. It passed my quarter at a distance where I could have lobbed an apple aboard (perhaps even have touched its sides with an oar). The wash was serious and my boat was thrown about. With a lower freeboard the cockpit would have been swamped, and with an unprepared crew they could have been hurt or thrown overboard.
Two people (I think) were on the bridge and watched me throughout the incident. A nearby yacht was also thrown about. I am puzzled to explain these actions – except to imagine that the helmsman wanted to liven up his day by seeing what his wash would do to a small sailing boat.
This incident was forwarded to the tug operator, who responded:
“….we take safety issues very seriously we would like further details on this matter so that it can be followed up with the Master and crew of the vessel involved and we also can close the loop. I have already issued a notice to all our Tug Masters reminding them of their responsibilities and professionalism in approaching smaller vessels.”
The issue of wake-wash and its impact on other vessels and the shoreline is by no means restricted to tugs; CHIRP has received and published a number of reports on the subject across a range of vessel types and this serves as another reminder to be aware of the impact of wake-wash on others, whether afloat or ashore.