Collision between the container vessel ‘Astrosprinter’ and the traditional sailing ship ‘Nr. 5 ELBE’ - Interim Report

The schooner had auxiliary power. Given the narrowness of the river and the ship traffic, it would have been prudent to have it idling and ready to engage.

The WAFI’s are thick as flies on that river this time of year.

I don’t envy you driving a box boat in that river and having to spar with WAFIs, even with a pilot.

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Most certainly. given the type of vessel it was.

This photo shows the red ‘Buoy 106’, the limit of the dredged fairway on the river’s eastside.
The pic was shot on the West bank, nearly perpendicular to the river.
On this telephoto it is impossible to estimate the distances.

The buoy’s position is known. If the incident’s position from the report is true, then:

  • The buoy was 0.4 km ESE of the ‘Astrosprinter’.

  • ‘Astrosprinter’ was in the center of the fairway (up and down).

  • The complete fairway’s width there is 0.5 km .

  • The red buoy is 0.34 km from the eastern bank.

  • East of the buoy, outside the fairway,‘Elbe’ had about 0.25 km water with a depth of 6 meters, enough for her draft of 3 meters.


Very difficult to explain the decisions made by whoever had the con on the schooner .

I hope that the Final Report, in 2 months, will write about the experience of the crew; not about nice papers they earned, but about the working experience on these very old boats. Working this boat has nothing to do with working a 80-feet motoryacht or a modern sailing yacht.

The old captain, and former Elbe pilot, had certainly guided similar boats, but he had always the boat’s captain to execute his orders. From the other 14 crew, a large part had probably to entertain the passengers and take them out of harm’s way.

And the mariners? The video does not show them very knowledgeable, but rather lost…

From investigating accidents the Brits discovered the collisions are preceded by VHF calls so they reached the conclusion that VHF calls cause collisions. Maybe the sailboat was following MCA guidance. :upside_down_face:


The only people I’ve found who talk more on a VHF than the Britts is the US Navy. UK VTS radio traffic is nearly continuous.

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Well I should give them credit, the Brits at least were very professional on the radio. Good pilots as well.

And fishermen with gillnets out, keeping each other awake at night with idle gossip.

Not much room there.

Here’s the video. It looks to me like the crew of the No 5 Elbe is watching the container ship and at 0:28 the Astrosprinter starts a turn to port. It’s just seconds after the Astrosprinter starts the turn that the crew on the No 5 Elbe begins to prepare for their own turn to port.

I don’t think the AS is turning to port. Its stbd side is opening from the POV of the Elbe because of its own leeway. It’s becoming more evident as it closes with the ship.

Turn to starboard?

I don’t know whether falling off would have been faster then luffing. Luffing the sails by letting go of the sheets, if done in an earlier stage, is another possibility and can be an effective method of reducing speed quickly. We used to back the mainsail if necessary to brake the boat but that is in this case a bit difficult I suppose…

A couple of years ago I was captain on a boat operating in the vicinity of Victoria BC. I got in a crossing situation with a big schooner homeported in BC. She was on my port hand. No sails up. Plenty of searoom for all to maneuver. Perfect visibility. Pretty simple situation. Her bearing was rock steady. I got on the VHF multiple times. Sounded the danger signal. Nothing.

I changed course to go astern of her. Got close enough to see exactly what you see in the video above. A herd of young people running about, taking up the concentration of a couple of experienced hands, who should have been focusing on the collision avoidance situation. I could see the head of the oldest guy near the wheel do a double take as we crossed their stern. As in, “Where did she come from?”

At this point someone hailed me on the radio. I went to the channel they designated. No one answered. I think their skipper knew there wasn’t a damn thing he could say that wouldn’t make him sound like a fool, so he said nothing.

He was training and I was training. I could see how he could have gotten distracted. We have two trainees in the wheelhouse, with one OOW, and they focus exclusively on collision avoidance and navigation. Another group of trainees do other stuff, under the eye of another trainer. But with some of these schooner training trips it seems as if the skipper is directing twenty trainees in sailhandling and safety and everything else, while still trying to conn the boat.

The brain only has so many neurons. They can be used up pretty quick.


Yes, watched it again, the Elbe is starting a turn to stbd.

This was a shit show from start to finish and started before the video recording began. From the reports of their being:

  1. on the wrong side of the channel
  2. not responding to VHF calls
  3. to the guy sounding that puny horn and expecting the people on the bridge of the ship to hear and move out of the way.
  4. to the failure to recognize the danger and react by falling off
  5. to the tangle of lines on deck that had people tripping as they pushed the tiller in the wrong direction.
    Blame is easy to assign in hindsight but still, this was a perfect demonstration of sloppy, dangerous seamanship. Lucky no one was killed.

That was the relieving tackle for the tiller, so couldn’t really be helped.

Re the wrong way – it was, but it was the direction they were told to. “Hard a-port” is easily distinguishable twice (by two different people).

But yes.

Any lines lying on deck with enough slack to produce bights when you have landlubbers wandering around like love sick cows is sloppy seamanship. Jus’ sayin’

That level of confusion on any vessel can only end badly.