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Old 08 October 2014, 05:14   #1
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Narrow Channel ?

Last weekend I was listening on the VHF to an incident unfolding in Poole Harbour between a yacht and one of the day pleasure small ferries, the yachtsman was screaming down the VHF trying to get the small ferries attention. I didnt see it as I was over near swanage but had the impression the yachtsman and the small ferry were in a near collision, the yachtsman was very irate, eventually he got hold of the small ferry on the VHF and a short conversation ensued.

The yachtsman was thinking power gives way to sail (normally yes), however the small ferry was stating that he was operating under the rules around narrow channels and hence was in his right to be standon vessel. (yes im aware there is no ush thing as the right of way if you have a collision and perhaps both parties should have done more to avoid the near miss)

Anyway to cut a long story short I was interested to learn how and by whom does an area of water get designated as a 'narrow channel' and how are people supposed to know that said stretch of water is designated as a 'narrow channel' as obviously this has implications around the rules of the road. And if people dont know then it can cause dangers.

And im after the official understanding as obvisouly some channels are narrow but might not mean in terms of formal offical navigation they may or may not be designated as a narrow channel. And of course a channel for a 4m boat may be huge compared to the same channel if your boat is 20m.

Thoughts and answers welcome
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Old 08 October 2014, 06:37   #2
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I don't know the answer to your question but I work on various ships & having been on the bridge of many & listened to the skippers attitude to small boats weather sail or power I'd just keep well out the way.
Most are on autopilot as they are difficult to manoeuvre manually & lookouts tend to not be taking too much notice.
I wouldn't like to push my luck even if I was the stand on vessel
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Old 08 October 2014, 08:29   #3
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Restricted by his draft perhaps ??
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Old 08 October 2014, 09:40   #4
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Originally Posted by beamishken View Post
I don't know the answer to your question but I work on various ships & having been on the bridge of many & listened to the skippers attitude to small boats weather sail or power I'd just keep well out the way.
Most are on autopilot as they are difficult to manoeuvre manually & lookouts tend to not be taking too much notice.
I wouldn't like to push my luck even if I was the stand on vessel
Indeed, I see it a lot in Poole Harbour and its usually between saling boats and the commercial smallish boats, hence I was wondering how a narrow channel is defined/designated and how many sailors realise the issues when they are a tad reluctant to get out of the way and the powered small commercial boats think the sail boats will get out of the way so dont take action early enouth, you can see how issues might arise quickly through complacentcy and not understanding the narrow channel equation.

I personally keep away from all commercial boats, making sure I take early action so there is no need to sweat it so to speak. The problem with Poole harbour is the amount of boat users who dont even know which side of the channel they should be on, then you have the sail racing and the pleasure and commercial fishing vessels in the middle of channels and large cargo and passenger ships, makes it an interesting run through.
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Old 08 October 2014, 09:56   #5
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Just the usual story of sailing boats (possibly in a race) trying to assert their believed "stand on" right over any power vessel... There have been a number of cases in Poole of racing boats trying to assert said right over the Condor and Barfleur ferries - suffice to say the harbour master doesn't take very kindly to their attempts at explaining the rules of the road and why sailing vessels apparently always have priority! These do get wirrten up as incidents by the Commissioners and if part of a formal race, the club responsible gets a letter/visit. Presumably for Poole Harbour the bylaws might state something about the designation of the channels?

Despite being a very keen sailor myself (albeit mainly cruising rather than racing), it's something I actually get quite annoyed about. For vessels proceeding down the main, marked channels, whether commercial or leisure, I do think it's quite unreasonable to expect all of them to grind to a halt or take evasive action every time a racing boat decides they want to cut across the channel in front of everyone. At busy times the channels can be tight in places, and with a line of boats proceeding at 10kn, it's dangerous to try and dash across in front. And knowing ferries (whether the little harbour ones or the big cross-Channel ones) are on a set route and timetable, I do think it's fairly foolish to argue with them!
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Old 08 October 2014, 13:33   #6
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I'll heed to a sailing boat with no issues, its when they then tack right in front whilst you've just given way that peeves me off.

As a Poole regular the smaller pleasure boats are generally ok in my experience.

Now Nuclear submarines off Portland... they are a different matter if your a windsurfer
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Old 08 October 2014, 16:08   #7
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Hi

A narrow channel is not defined . It is about the relative sizes if the vessel and the width if the channel. Sailing boats and power boats (under 20m) should not impeded larger boats and stay to starboard side. The sailor should have left sufficient sea room to allow that the collision was avoided and the risk of grounding for the bigger boat was avoided. Probably the larger boat should have made a sound signal which would have helped.

Richard
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Old 09 October 2014, 03:56   #8
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All good replies, cheers everyone, I know what should have happened my main interest is how a channel is designated a narrow channel because if its not officially designated you get the situation that probably did occur where one party things that certain colregs apply and another things that an additional colreg applies and hence there is a situation where if both parties dont do what they should do an issue occurs. Im sure everyone has seen the situation where one party is slow in responding or thinks x and hence just stands on when in fact they should also do some action. You know what people are like.

I did some further digging on this issue and found some discussion papers, seems like an international body did discuss narrow channels some years back but reading between the lines it is a grey area and certain bodies were reluctant to officially state how a suppossed narrow channel should be determined as being such.

I will continue to see if I can find any more info, perhaps its just down to the port authority to designate but then how do they advise people of such.

Seems to me the Colregs are only ever really usefull when there is an accident to help the insurance companies as we all know and see that many people dont know about them or ignore them. Harsh maybe but any weekend out of the water and you can see who knows them and who doesn't. Like other people have stated before its strange that we have the highway code and you have to take a driving test which includes a test on the highway code but in boating we have the colregs which are law but no one in terms of pleasure boaters has to sit a test or have a licence.
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Old 09 October 2014, 06:19   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boristhebold View Post

And of course a channel for a 4m boat may be huge compared to the same channel if your boat is 20m.
And that, in a nutshell is it!



700 tons - power or not - isn't going to stop or change course suddenly, even if you are mid Atlantic.

I use a "personal" rule that essentially says might is right - Basically if it's big, and I'm in a small manoeuvrable boat (power or sail) - I'll stay clear.

Colregs or not - the laws of materials & physics say it's going to win, regardless who has "right of way".
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Old 09 October 2014, 06:51   #10
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Good advice below and response from Poole Harbour Master, good he sparred the time to respond, interesting reading and answers my question which is no there isnt a formal definition of a narrow channel, however some ports will class many of their channels as narrow and the interpreation is based on some rules or common sense, best practice would be if you think it could be classed as a narrow channel then presume rule 9 applies.

From Harbour Master below.

Unfortunately in the past and going forward, IRPCS have and will be misinterpreted despite them being clear and, in my opinion, unambiguous rules.

A Master Mariners interpretation of Rule 9 is as follows:

Although Rule 9 applies in all conditions of visibility, it applies only on certain waters and to certain vessels.

Two terms used throughout the Rule that are not defined are "narrow channel" (namesake of the Rule) and "(narrow) fairway." It is assumed that the drafters of the Rules either believed their meanings to be obvious or else were not able to formulate suitably concise definitions.

Rule 9 applies only on waters described by the two terms. What is "narrow" depends on the type of vessel and the circumstances. A "channel" is a natural or dredged lane restricted on either side by shallow water; it is often marked by buoys. A "fairway" is generally in open water, and the water on either side is not much shallower than within the fairway.
The principal factors that distinguish narrow channels from other waterways are their physical characteristics and usage.

The risks may be posed by narrow and shallow waterway geometry, blind bends, sharp turns, tide, powerful and sometimes unpredictable currents and the forces of hydrodynamic interaction. In congested waters, the number of encounters between vessels increases, requiring vessels to pass frequently at close quarters.

The increasing presence of recreational boats, many of which are operated by persons not completely familiar with the collision regulations can exacerbate the problem. All of these factors are likely applicable to Poole Harbour.

In Poole Harbour, due to the relatively restrictive passage plan and density of traffic, the term referred to must be “narrow channel”. This applies to all channels in Poole Harbour.
Persons in charge of navigation should be familiar with the comparative proportions of the vessel and the channel, the tendency of the vessel to squat and the effect of reduced under-keel clearance on the vessel’s manoeuvrability.

(a) A vessel proceeding along the course of a narrow channel or fairway shall keep as near to the outer limit of the channel or fairway which lies on her starboard side as is safe and practicable.

Paragraph (a) requires all vessels to navigate on the far right side of a narrow channel, whether or not traffic is approaching from the other direction. If that is not "safe or practicable," however, the mariner is justified in moving closer to the centre or even over the centre to the left side (providing the traffic permits such action).
(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.
Paragraph (b) directs certain vessels not to impede other vessels that can safely navigate only within the narrow channel or fairway. Rule 8(f) "shall not impede" language says that vessels directed not to impede shall take early enough action that sufficient sea room exists for safe passage. If risk of collision does arise (ideally it should not), the impeding vessel retains its duty to stay out of the way, notwithstanding any stand-on rights the more general Steering and Sailing Rules may have given it. In other words, the vessel directed not to impede should stay well clear!
Paragraph (b) gives rights to non-sailing vessels that are over twenty meters long and that can safely navigate only within the narrow channel or fairway. Both conditions must be met. The Rule does not assign rights between power-driven vessels less than twenty meters long and sailing vessels, as these vessels fall into the same class for Rule 9(b) purposes.
The Solent Scene is 28m in length and can only safely navigate within the narrow channels.
(d) A vessel shall not cross a narrow channel or fairway if such crossing impedes the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within such channel or fairway. The latter vessel may use the sound signal prescribed in Rule 34(d) if in doubt as to the intention of the crossing vessel.
Paragraph (d) Rule 9 prohibits all vessels from crossing a narrow channel or fairway in a way that would impede a vessel that could not safely operate outside of the channel or fairway. Rule 8(f) "shall not impede" language is operative here. If a vessel is directed not to impede another, it should try to avoid causing the other vessel to change its course or speed. If it blunders into a risk-of-collision situation, the general Steering and Sailing Rules will not apply and you will continue to be obliged to stay out of the way. Be mindful, however, that Rule 8(f)(iii) says that the general rules will apply to the vessel being impeded.
The Rule also provides for the vessel constrained to the channel to sound five or more short blasts if in doubt as to the intentions of the vessel crossing the narrow channel. Rule 9 says that this sound signal "may" be used--although Rule 34(d) requires its use in case of doubt.
Since I have not received any reports I am unaware if the Solent Scene skipper was “in doubt” and sounded the sound signal prescribed in Rule 34(d).
Note that Rule 9 (d) refers to the "sound signal prescribed in Rule 34(d)," also note that 34(d) does not refer to the five or more short blasts as the "danger" signal, but rather calls for the signal's use when "either vessel fails to understand the intentions or actions of the other, or is in doubt whether sufficient action is being taken by the other to avoid collision."
Thinking of the five-blast signal as a danger signal may cause a vessel operator to delay its use until a situation of potential danger has developed into one of immediate danger. Its early application in the circumstances of doubt described in Rule 34(d) would likely focus the attention of the parties while there is still time to act effectively in a non-crisis environment. This signal should be thought of as a "doubt" rather than a "danger' signal.
(f) A vessel nearing a bend or an area of a narrow channel or fairway where other vessels may be obscured by an intervening obstruction shall navigate with particular alertness and caution and shall sound the appropriate signal prescribed in Rule 34(e).
Paragraph (f) cautions vessels nearing a blind bend or other area where an approaching vessel may be obscured and reminds them to obey the Rule 34(e) signal requirement. The requirements in this paragraph offer nothing new. The requirements for lookout, safe speed, and so forth cover needed precautions and Rule 34(e) covers the signal requirement.

In some respects, Rule 9 supplements the other steering and sailing rules by, for example, requiring certain vessels to keep to the starboard side of the channel. In other respects, Rule 9 displaces the generally applicable steering and sailing rules by requiring certain categories of vessels that might otherwise have a navigation priority under the rules to yield that priority to vessels that can safely navigate only in the channel.

It is likely that In this case the sailing vessel should not have impeded the Solent Scene.

As a result of incident investigation in the past Yacht Clubs have been requested to advise their members that they do not have an automatic right of way over power driven craft just because they are under sail. There are other factors that can apply. In particular, Rule 9 could apply within the narrow channels of the harbour.

The Colregs are there to be understood and observed for the safety of all.

Hopefully this has been useful.

With kind regards
Captain Brian Murphy
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