Skipper’s Tips #21 – Rules of the Road

I remember, many years ago, sitting down to learn the ‘Highway Code’.  It all seemed very logical, and I suppose it ought to be. After all, if you are going to commit something to memory and then expect to act on it in the future, whatever it is you are trying to remember needs to be kept simple; so it is with the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea (IRPCS). 

However, not everyone who uses the roads abides by the rules and we have all seen the results of this cavalier approach on many occasions, of that I’m sure. Sadly, it is little different on the water. In fact, some would say it is even worse. We are all aware that anyone can buy a boat and set off from the shore at will. The question of whether there should be regulations in place to prevent people from doing precisely that and potentially putting their lives or other people’s lives at risk is one for another time but nevertheless this is how the law currently stands. The upshot of this is, in an environment where sticking to the rules is even more important in some instances than it is on the road, a large contingent of water users are blissfully unaware of how to conduct themselves when in the vicinity of other craft, especially commercial vessels.

To my utter dismay, I regularly witnessed incidents of people navigating their boats in busy, narrow waterways with scant regard for other water users around them. One example comes immediately to mind. Once, when coming into the Hamble River, I spotted a large motor cruiser coming from the opposite direction. The person on the helm had not spotted that his speed was so fast that he was creating a sizeable wake (against the local regulations in the river) and worse still, he was navigating on the wrong side of the river (against the IRPCS). Yachts and other motor cruisers alike were forced to duck for cover, shooting off in all directions to avoid being mown down by this lunatic who gave no indication that he was going to move out of anyone’s way.  I could imagine the chap at the helm being of somewhat ‘Toad’ like proportions and muttering under his breath, “Parp, parp”.

What I and surely the other boaters involved in this appalling display of ignorance would like to know, is why, when the rules are so simple to learn and abide by, did this ‘Toad’ drive his boat in this manner?

The IRPCS is as close as we can get on the water, to having a highway code. Naturally, without defined lanes to sail along, the chance of bumping into someone is greatly increased. It, therefore, makes sense to have a set of logical guidelines to follow in order that we can all go about our business without continually colliding with each other.

The ‘Coll Regs’, as they are often called, are hard work to wade through in one go, but try dipping in and out from time to time to keep yourself up to speed. I would also suggest to you that keeping a complete IRPCS on board your boat at all times would be good practice.

The regulations cover; lights, day shapes, sound signals, general rules about avoiding collisions and your responsibilities towards other water users.  Here are some of the general rules:

  1. It is the responsibility of the skipper to maintain a good look-out at all times.
  2. Vessels of less than 20m should not impede the safe passage of large (>20m) vessels in a narrow channel.
  3. Overtaking boats must keep clear.
  4. Power gives way to sail.
  5. Vessels should keep to the starboard side of a narrow channel.
  6. There is a risk of collision if the bearing of an approaching vessel remains constant.
  7. When boats under power are crossing, the vessel with the other vessel on its starboard side must give way.
  8. There is no such thing as ‘Right of Way’.

I am sure that nearly all of you will be aware of the obvious rules, such as keep to the right- hand side of a channel and power gives way to sail but there are some rules that don’t seem to be common knowledge.  Did you know, for instance, that if a sailing boat overtakes you, it is obliged to keep clear of you?  Did you know that the Solent, starting at the Needles, is regarded as a narrow channel with channels delineated by port and starboard markers?

Keeping a good lookout is commonsense, right?. What folk forget though, is this doesn’t just mean looking all around you but it also includes using your radar if you have one fitted. Not having your radar switched on and being able to operate it when you are out at night or in any reduced visibility situation means that you are not abiding by the rules. In fact, a collision caused by misreading your radar could see you taking the lion’s share of the blame for a collision with another vessel. Go and take a radar course this winter!

Here’s a little ditty for you: ‘If to starboard red appear, ‘tis your duty to keep clear’.  That should help decide who the ‘stand on vessel’ is and who the ‘give way’ vessel is in a crossing situation.

By the way, according to the IRPCS, there is no such thing as ‘right of way’.  We are ALL obliged to avoid a collision. There is little point in crashing into another boat when you could easily see what was going to happen and could have turned away, just because you were determined that you were the ‘stand on vessel’ and the other boat must move out of your way.  

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not in the office dreaming about delivering a boat or teaching Yachtmaster and Day Skipper courses then I’m probably off somewhere exotic on holiday!  Whichever it is, I will still be adding my adventures and skipper’s tips so click follow and you will never miss another update.

Circumnavigation – last legs

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Where did the summer go?  It’s September and I’ve already heard the ‘C’ word mentioned at least twice now and yet its more than 100 days to go.  I have been unbelievably busy this summer and that is my excuse for not putting any posts up for ages.  Anyway, I’m here now and I thought this post ought to be an update on the Circumnavigation of the British Isles, which started back in May.

Well, despite a couple of weeks of being stuck in harbour due to bad weather, the Botnia Targa arrived in Neyland Yacht Haven at the end of June – that is a pretty quick circumnavigation if you ask me!

I took the picture above as we left Neyland Yacht Haven on the leg to Padstow.  It would have been possible to get from Milford Haven to Falmouth in one hit but we both wanted to take a peek at PadStein and both the timings and weather were perfect to go for this option.  The harbour at Padstow has a lock and the Doom Bar in the estuary of the Camel River can get pretty treacherous in strong westerlies, so the light northerly which pushed us along and a latest arrival time of 4pm, meant we were definitely heading for a Rick Stein supper!

This next shot is us departing Milford Haven with St Ann’s Head in the distance and Thorn Island to left of centre:

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We had a lovely run down, with a slight to moderate sea and a light following wind. Wall to wall sunshine simply added to the enjoyment – I even enjoyed my supermarket sandwiches, which on a grey day would surely have tasted of cardboard!

You know, I can’t remember how long it took us to get down there but we arrived so early that we had to wait for the tide to come up before we could get into the harbour. With this in mind, we slowed right down as we approached the river mouth and pootled along enjoying the scenery – it really is very pretty.

Approaching the Camel River:

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In the estuary:

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… I wonder which came first, the Bar or the Beer?

and here’s Padstow Harbour in all it’s prettiness, with us tied up on the left of centre.

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A trawler which came in shortly after we had finished tying up:

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and here’s the restaurant we ate at – couldn’t get into a Rick Stein restaurant after all 😦

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The next day, we were up with the gulls and headed off on the penultimate leg of the circumnavigation – Falmouth.

We were so lucky with the weather; even lighter winds and more sunshine.  It was going to be a long day but with such good conditions how could we possibly complain?

Running south along the North Cornish coastline, we could see Lundy in the distance. Sadly, too far in the distance for my iThingy to get a decent picture but I did manage to get some footage of dolphins chasing the boat! I’m sorry it’s not brilliant footage but I was so excited I could barely hold the phone steady.

I guess the ensuing chatter about the dolphins helped us forget the miles but whatever it was, Land’s End soon came into view.  After a peek at the chart and a quick discussion we took the decision to go ‘inside’ rather than ‘outside’.  This meant going between Kettle’s Bottom and Dr Johnson’s Head, the promontory upon which the visitor centre is perched.

Here’s the approach:

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and here’s what it looks like from the other side:

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So, Land’s End rounded,  just the Lizard to go round and then a straight run into Falmouth:

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Approaching Falmouth, we had a great view down the south coast to the East:

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What a lovely couple of days we’d had.  Superb boating conditions, great scenery, dolphins, fabulous food and of course, great company!  Before we knew it we were motoring gently through the harbour and up the river towards Falmouth Marina:

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Sadly, I wasn’t able to do the last leg across to Jersey but within the week the Circumnavigation of the British Isles was complete!

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

 

 

 

Hamptonne Country Life Museum

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Gosh! These posts are coming thick and fast at the moment aren’t they? Anyway, yesterday, being a bank holiday, we decided to do the tourist thing and visit one of the heritage sites on Jersey.  Jersey Heritage are a local charity who protect and promote the heritage and uniqueness of Jersey.  The Hamptonne Country Life Museum is one of the sites administered by Jersey Heritage and well worth a visit if you ever find yourself on this beautiful island.

I’m not going to rattle on about Hamptonne or what we had for afternoon tea.  Instead, I’m just going to put up a selection of pictures, enjoy.

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventure.

New Beginnings

On a sunny Tuesday in May, I was back to Italy one last time, to complete the handover of the boat I’d been skippering for the previous year.  It was absolute chaos, as the refurbishment had started and there were people, equipment, tools, food, shoes and plans scattered everywhere.  In the middle of all this madness I was trying to remember what needed work doing to it, what needed replacing and all the time I was showing the new owner how his new toy worked.

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Here’s Gary doing his bit with some of the water pipes that had perished.

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And here’s the remnants of the food shopping to be put away and also the impromptu office where we were going through the work details and the handover – the only bit of free space on the boat it seems.

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As most of you will know, I’m a tad anal about keeping things tidy but at the same time as I was stressing about the carnage, it was wonderful to see the boat getting a new lease of life.  When the work is complete she will be back to her former magnificence and ready for the coming season.

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What I certainly wasn’t expecting, was the new owner’s two friends who came along for a spot of sun and to spend some time practising their musical skills.  I had no idea what a treat we were in for when Kim and Billy walked out of arrivals at Naples airport with a guitar each.

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Here they are, giving it plenty on the flybridge!

Time to say goodbye…

It wasn’t long before my visit was over and I was heading back. I just had to get a couple of snaps of the Alps as we flew over and if you ask Dan I’m sure he’ll confirm that you have to get one or more Obligatory Wing Shots whenever you fly somewhere!

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It’ll be sad not being on the boat in Italy this summer but I’ve already got some exciting adventures lined up for the coming season, not least, assisting one of my customers to circumnavigate the UK in his Botnia Targa, now that will be worth reading about, surely?