My yacht was heading out from port. My position was 0.03NM from a navigation buoy marking a sandbank to starboard. A ferry steamed up behind us and I expected she would leave me to starboard. To my surprise she came up my starboard side, leaving me on her port side. There was no communication, no sound signal. She passed within 15 metres at high speed and turned to starboard in front of me thus putting us in the full wash. We were motor sailing so she was the overtaking give way vessel. We had our mainsail up which received a severe back wind.
I complained to the Coastguard who called the ferry and asked her to talk to me. The Captain said that “If he had caused discomfort he apologised but there was lots of traffic and he was restricted”. There was no boat in the main channel and she was a long, long way out of the channel. There were no other yachts nearby, it was not congested and the main channel was free.
If she had been in the channel I would have given way but had not expected to have to do this so far out of the channel, close to the bank, in relatively shallow water. The close encounter was completely unnecessary.
This report was one of a number we have received from yachtsmen regarding anxiety they have felt about the close passing of a larger vessel. We are concerned that the margin of safety allowed by commercial vessels is, on occasions, less than it could be. It is clearly the case that, when entering or leaving ports with busy leisure traffic, it is inevitable that ferries will pass very close to small craft. However, we do wonder whether this induces some watch-keepers on occasions to accept a very close passing distance in relatively more open waters where a greater margin of safety would be available.
We alerted the manager of the ferry to this report.
CHIRP encourages shipping companies and masters to promote discussion with their officers regarding margins of safety and allowance for contingencies, e.g. engine or steering failure.