Here's a tough situation for you: In a channel, constrained by draft, a partially-loaded small tanker encounters a very small pleasure boat with engine trouble. Watch the video.
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Here's my take on it: The ugly truth is that in some situations, it would be easier for the officer of the watch to run down the boat rather than leave the channel and run aground at speed... Not sure if the video just didn't capture the ship blowing the whistle or not, but I would have expected someone to be blowing the danger signal like a madman.
I'm not going to quote the relevant rules of the road, which do apply here, but this is an obvious lose-lose situation. The OOW on the ship would be strung up for not doing everything possible to avoid the collision... but if he ran aground and caused environmental damage to a protected animal habitat (which is a thing), or, heaven forfend, a hull breach leads to an oil spill, said OOW is going to be crucified.
Simply put, the consequences of running down that boat may be far less than the potential consequences of trying to avoid it. And that's fucked up.
I value my ass as being worth more than that ship, the oil and a pile of dead and fouled animals stretching from here to the moon.
I've been on both ends. The Notorious B.O.B. and I once gently planted the Rita C's bow in a mudflat to let a ship go by about 20 feet past our stern in the Fore River channel up in Boston Harbor. We were in touch with the pilot the whole time, but he did NOT like our decision to do so, but we were in the middle of a 25-pot trawl (traps strung 15 fathoms apart on a single groundline) of lobster traps, and judged the maneuver safe if marginal. That being said, we were under power and could have beached the boat if necessary to get out of the way. As it was, all went well but we agreed later that we should have cut and run.
|Best job I ever had.|
From the other end, when I was sailing as Able Seaman on the tanker New River, and I was steering us out of Tampa (All AB's are qualified quartermasters, or helmsmen) on July 4 one year, a boatload of drunks cut across our bow while in a very shallow channel (we had two foot of under keel clearance, which is pretty normal), with coral stands on either side. The pilot had me make a small course correction (2 degrees, about all we had to work with) to try to maximize the small boat's chance of survival. The bow lookout flipped out and was screaming over the radio, the captain was leaning on the whistle, blowing the danger signal, and the pilot looks back at me, sadly, and says 'steady as you go, now,' meaning: hold this course.
In the end, our bow wake grabbed the boat, flipped it on her beam, and pushed it aside. The drunks managed to stay in the boat, and once the boat was past our bow, the pilot had me reverse the rudder and swing 4 degrees over to get the boat away from our stern, which had a wineglass-shaped hull and could easily suck the boat in. Which it did not, thankfully.
After it was all over, the pilot looked at the captain, grinned, and asked the captain if he had her for a minute. When the captain said yes, the pilot says, "boys, I'm gonna go back and have a piss, check my drawers. Might need to borrow a pair of skivvies from one o' you."
Shit like that happened on the New River. More often than you might think. Sailing on that old tub was an adventure.