WSF Collision


Of course there is no way to make any system 100 percent incident free short of stopping it from operating.

Where did you get the idea that data can’t be used to measure safety? No one here has made that claim.

The WSF safety history is quite good but that has nothing to do with the reasons for the type of incidents that have occurred. The fact that a yacht was rammed by a ferry driver who acted as if he did not need to follow the rules is a good indication that there is a reason he believed he would get away with it.


Two months after my FOIA request, the Coast Guard finally sent me a digital copy of the collision report. Now if only I had a CD-rom drive…


That recreational “sailors” is not paying attention and/or not knowing the rules of the road is happening in every part of the world. Here is a video posted by the Norwegian Pilot Association of a common occurrence in the summer season.

BTW; This is taken on departure from Brevik, one of the ports that the E/V “Yara Birkeland” will soon be trafficking autonomously. How will the “computer Captain” handle the situation you may ask.


Doesn’t a sailboat under sail have right of way over an engine powered vessel?
Moreover, it looks like those sailboats are actually racing…


Yes as a general rule, but in Norwegian waters this rule applies: [quote]Rule 44 Responsibilities between vessels
Pleasure crafts and open boats being under oars, sails or engine, shall as far as practicable keep out of the way of larger vessels, scheduled ferries and other commercial traffic when passing narrow waters, a heavily trafficked fairway or a harbour area.[/quote]
Many other countries have similar rules for pleasure crafts.

This video was published in reply to an earlier article in Sysla about pleasure crafts crossing the bow of large vessels at close range, probably not realizing the “Line of Sight” restrictions for the Pilot or OOW on the larger vessels:

They may feel they have full control of the situation, but the people on the bridge does not know if they have any problem and cannot take evasive action in time, if they do.

The golden rule for them to remember is; “If you cannot see the bridge windows on the vessel, they cannot see you”.

Besides, even a small container feeder, (as here) coaster or ferry take time to turn or stop, even if there are no restrictions to hinder maneuvering,


You are right, with some exceptions. A sailing vessel gives way to:

  • a vessel restricted in her ability to manoeuvre
  • a vessel constrained by her draught
  • other vessels if the local authorities decided so (in channels or around ports)

The perspective of the video showed the sailboats just under the bow of the vessel… they were far away!
Members of the local regatta club generally know the behavior of the big ships, most often they are not suicidal.


Whether they are racing or not has nothing to do with the COLREGS. A sail vessel is the stand on vessel in open waters, and even then only within the limitations of the vessels involved. A tiny maneuverable sail boat has no reason to not avoid a giant ship, even in open waters.

Also, there’s 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.


It is physically impossible for a large ship under way to stop or maneuver quickly enough to avoid a small boat that is so close it cannot be seen over the bow. In this situation, the ship is by definition restricted in its ability to maneuver . Designing a race course to cross paths with ships is irresponsible and dangerous.

“Pecking order”

Not under command
Restricted in ability to maneuver
Constrained by draft
Fishing (commercial)
Power vessel



Sailboats have their own rules when meeting each other while under sail such as starboard tack has right of way over port tack and leeward sailboat is stand on. Unfortunately, too many sailors ignore all COLREGS and don’t monitor the radio.


Here is the SOLAS rules for “Line of Sight” from the bridge of ships over 55 m. LOA:

Large container ships stretches this rule to the limit, hence the Bridge is placed as far fwrd. as practicable to maximize deck load capacity:

Even a fairly large boat will be obscured quite a distance ahead of this vessel.

Boat US is doing their best to inform the recreational boaters of the danger:


Being in a channel does not make a ship RAM, but it has protections due to being in a “restricted channel or fairway” as I already mentioned.

The definition of RAM would be seismic vessels with a mile of gear out or generally weird and awkward tows (not simply a barge).


Not necessarily true. When an object disappears under the bow of a standard aft house ship you have better than a boat length (more if drops below the top tier of containers) to said object, which is usually enough time to maneuver port or starboard. Of course YMMV depending on the available water. Most race courses that are in the vicinity of deep draft traffic alert the local CG and a notation is made in the LMN of with the lead vessels name and working channel. The real headaches are the large regattas that race over large distances. Those guys have a bad habit of leaving their running lights off so the competition can’t see them. Hint–neither can you.


I agree 100% with your legal interpretation of the COLREGS. My point is this: too many sailboat operators have caused my heart rate to skyrocket by pulling mind blowing stunts in front of me. Their defense is based on the only portion of the COLREGS they were taught in sailing school, namely that if they are under sail, they are the stand on vessel in a crossing situation with a power vessel . Many of them consider your ship a power vessel and they expect you to give way. Now that I’ve retired and gone over to the dark side teaching recreational sailors, I go beyond what the schools tell them and I teach them the pecking order and tell them this so I can sleep at night: If you are in a crossing situation with a large ship, stay clear and consider him RAM because if you cross in front of him and something goes wrong in your timing or have a gear problem and get into irons, your sailboat might well end up shredded and your status will change from “sailboat captain” to “shark bait”.


If you can’t see him, which way do you alter course? Even assuming you have a lookout on your bow telling you which way to turn, show me an 800’ ship traveling at 20 knots that can make enough of a course change in its own length whether in a channel or in open ocean to accomplish this amazing feat.


If you’ve been tacking the target and know his direction of travel it is simply a matter of 5 or ten degrees of rudder. Remember, when you lose him visually you still have a quarter mile to alter. normally just enough time, even at 20 knots, especially in the open ocean.

The possibility of pedestrian traffic is something the master needs to consider when setting the vessels speed and the watch officers should be extra vigilant so not to put the vessel in that position in the first place. Be aware of usable water outside the channel (if any) in case you need to leave it.


Easily said. Which way would you have turned here?


In cases like that the same rules as govern driving in Saigon apply:
MOV00641.AVI (2.6 MB)
The scooters?? Just ignore them, they will take care of themselves.
(Just testing if the direct posting of video works)


This is true but there is more to the story. Sailboat racers are so intent on winning that they won’t give up a second of time if they can avoid it.


Can’t rightly say as I’m not on the bridge. It’s a YouTube video, wich is how this thread got started.


Of course, how silly of me. I totally forgot you were the apologist for WSF because you can’t tell anything at all from a video.


That’s correct. I am a firm believer in investigations and findings as opposed to pitch forks and public lynchings.

Your video (as well as the first) provides us with little information. Where is the channel? How much water is outside the channel? How fast was the tanker going? Was a tug made up? Was there a turn to be made? Was radio contact made? I could go on and on, but I won’t. If you have experience maneuvering large deep draft vessels in relation to channels or pleasure craft then by all means relate that to us and inform us of your experiences.