Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rules of the Road


This is one of the cruise ships that anchor out in front of the cannery. I'm not sure which one this is, I think maybe Vision of the Seas. A week ago last Monday I had a close encounter of the unpleasant kind with her sister ship, I believe it was the Serenade of the Seas. I had a vision of the Serenade of the Seas that I didn't want to have. A dense fog was laying on the water at the time and I was underway for Homeshore across Icy Straits to do a little trolling. I had heard the ship call on channel 16 as she rounded Rocky Island, but that is a number of miles from where I was, so I didn't pay all that much attention to it. Unfortunately, my auto pilot was on the blitz and I was somewhat distracted while I fiddled with it trying to figure out the problem. I had my radar on, but I was so close to the land that I decided to put it on a 1/8 mile scale to keep from getting too much clutter and whatnot on the screen. I had put a line on my GPS from where I was to where I wanted to be in fifteen minutes and was trying to follow it the best I could. There is nothing like a thick fog to disorient a person. Anyway, while I was trying to follow the line and keep an eye on the radar, I noticed a huge blip on the screen. I checked the GPS to see if I had drifted too close to Halibut Island and realized I hadn't and that the blip was getting rapidly closer to me. I put the boat in nuetral and watched the radar for a few seconds before deciding that if I wanted to stay dry and safe, I'd better take evasive action. I slammed the boat into reverse and sped up the engine, cursing and praying at the same time. While I was still backing down I saw the white bow pass right in front of me, with several lookouts peering through the fog. Whether or not they ever saw me, I have no idea, but I have to assume the bridge picked me up on their radar. I kind of heard their horn over the screaming of my engine. It was a little unnerving to watch the portholes pass by so close I could hit them with a rock, and I'm sure that none of the passengers ever knew what was going on. I'm not even sure that they would have felt the impact had I not backed down when I did.
I relayed my story to a fellow fisherman who informed me that had we collided, I probably would have been at fault. Perhaps he was right. As he pointed out, cruise ships don't like to track boats that aren't on a set course, it's hard to steer around them, and I'm sure that I was wavering back and forth because of no auto pilot. Also, because of their sheer size, they can't always manuever with the speed that a smaller boat can. I think I'll check the rules of the road again to see who has the right of way in a situation like that. In my way of thinking I did, but sometimes just having the right of way isn't enough. Better to back down and live to tell about it than to die feeling justified I guess.

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