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Sailing and the case of the Ouzo

Eddie Mair | 17:24 UK time, Thursday, 13 December 2007

What do you think?


  1. At 05:32 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Ian Gilbert wrote:

    I disagree with the comments of the representative from Nautilus. As a regular sailer in UK coastal water in a small classic boat (a Dunkirk Little Ship) I frequently experience inappropriate use of speed by commercial operators in restricted waters. They rarely consider the effects of their wash on our small craft and on several occasions we have been rolled on to our beam. Some commercial skippers seem to have transferred road rage from the 'highway' to the 'high seas'.

  2. At 05:36 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Susan Godlington wrote:

    I sail a 19ft open boat most weekends during the summer. I sail in the bay at Falmouth - busy with sailing and motor boats. Many moterboat helmsmen do not realise how their wake affects a small craft. If a large wake is heading for me I always trun into it - the safest direction. I would expect this is not so easy in the dark as it may be upon you before you see it. Taking a large wave side on will capsize any boat whose beam (width) is less than the wave height.

  3. At 05:39 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Ian wrote:

    As a former professional manner and currently a safety inspector, much as I agree with Alan Graveson's statement that "steam gives way to sail", the cruel hard facts are that yachts are hard to see visually or by radar, and should keep well clear of commercial traffic and not rely on the rules. The watch officer will often be a very busy man or woman, and looking for yachts is down the scale of things to be done. In reality, yachts often push the rules, and I have memories of yachts 'passing down the side' where I was much relieved to see them later in my wake. Of such are 'Navigator's Nightmares' made; I still have them 18 years later!

  4. At 05:40 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Tony wrote:

    I've read the MAIB report - the accident was a caused by a combination of circumstances coming together and so was probably unavoidable - HOWEVER what was'nt brought out by Eddie Mair was the fact the accused DID NOT turn the ship to look for a yacht that they knew passed closely to the ship. If he had, and it was the yacht in question, the three seamen WOULD have survived.

  5. At 05:41 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Mike wrote:

    I wonder if the question of why the yacht (that Mr Hubble claims passed safely along his ship's side) didn't radio the ship with a 'what the f*ck do think you are doing' was asked at the trial?

    Any small boat that has a close encounter such as this would radio the ship straight away. Any master of a large ship that didn't get such a radio contact after such a close encounter should have assumed that it must have been closer than he thought and roused the captain at the very least.

  6. At 05:44 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Barry Vaughan wrote:

    As a Captain of a ferry operating in these waters - and as sad as the case of the Ouzo is the Rule of the Road requires the 'stand-on' vessel ( the yacht) to take warning and avoiding actions when aware of a potential near miss. Hence the Ouzo should have made a broadcast on VHF 16 to warn the ferry when they were aware of the risk and could have used a searchlight to illuminate their sails.
    The Rule of the Road requires BOTH parties to maintain a watch and for the vessel at risk to take action herself when collision by the 'give-way' vessel will not avert the collision - the sad loss of these lives must remind all yachtsmen that they have at all times to be vigilant. The way the trial has been reported seems to put all the responsibility on the ferry.

  7. At 05:44 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Stephen Taylor wrote:

    The union rep spent the whole PM interview muddying the waters.

    The MAIB report is very clear.

    "The officer of the watch tried a last minute manoeuvre to avoid her an d believed that he had been successful"

    "After careful analysis of the facts, the MAIB is of the firm opinion that the yacht was Ouzo and that Pride of Bilbao had collided with here, or passed so close that she had been swamped or capsized by the vessel's wash"

    The investigation considered a number of issues, the last of which was
    "Why the ferry did not stop and assist the yacht"

  8. At 05:44 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Jeremy Rockett wrote:

    Although the spokesman from Nautilus quite rightly said that sail gives way to steam, with various caveats, most yachtsmen wouldn't intentionally put themselves anywhere near a situation where that decision had to be made. You don't have to sail for long before you see many examples of the poor attitude of commercial vessels towards leisure yachtsmen or hear of the many examples of poor seamanship, particularly with regard to keeping a proper lookout, after all how many commenrcial ships collided with the half submerged, well-lit car transporter in the English Channel a few years ago?

  9. At 05:47 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Jennie O'Kane wrote:

    I feel very disturbed by this case because if the Pride of Bilbao hit a yacht and if it wasn't this one then why have there been no complaints from the unidentified yacht's skipper?

  10. At 05:57 PM on 13 Dec 2007, James Thomas wrote:

    I expect there wasnt much attention being paid to the sea that night,the bridge although occupied were probably passing time on yet another boring crossing of the channel.The crews default setting on realising anything was wrong when they were too late to react would have been to convince themselves everything was ok.The only way you can guarantee vigilance by the crew is to install cctv on the bridge, this would ensure that all captains poor or good are forced to take the responsibility for failure.If that fails to achieve a significant reduction in accidents then attach cctv around the vessels hull with ir so you can see at night.The answer is most definately not to licence leisure cruising.

  11. At 05:57 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Jeremy Rockett wrote:

    I of course meant to say that steam gives way to sail!

  12. At 06:10 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Ian Smith wrote:

    I do hope Jeremy Rockett's post regarding 'sail gives way to steam' was a clerical error, as of course the reverse is true..otherwise we really do have a problem at sea!

  13. At 06:42 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Alex R wrote:

    Before answering this, i quickly re-read the Ouzo-PoB MAIB report. Most yachtsmen take safety very seriously: the Ouzo's crew were well-trained with reasonable safety equipment onboard. Not surprising given the sight of 100m wall of steel larger than an office block steaming towards you at 15kts or more.

    MAIB's report catalogues a series of minor human errors: Ouzo does not contact PoB on Ch13 or set off a flare, PoB does not stop despite the fact that they have a legal and moral obligation to assist others, particularly given the silence that followed what was at least a near miss should have lead to a predictable tirade on ch13. It's possible Ouzo's helmsman did not see the slow turn being executed by PoB, or at least tragically misjudged it.

    It is true the col regs clearly state that all vessels are required to avoid collision and larger vessels to maintain a watch on both ch13 and ch16. The practice of slow turns executed by large ferries and cruise liners is not the clear and obvious signal to any vessel, stand-on or not, that the col regs request. Given that raising anyone on ch13 is improbable, I am uncertain of any quick-fix solution.

    It would seem that yachtsmen should reconsider how we judge a vessel to be on collision course.

  14. At 06:47 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Trevor Whyatt wrote:

    After a life-time at sea in Merchant Ships and in yachts: and as a survivor of many such close encounters, I feel tha justice has been served. I hope that this case will illustrate the difficulties arrising from the different relative speeds that limit the slower vessel's ability to anticipate the faster vessel's course alterations to avoid the collision situation. The limited visibilty of yachts side lights and inadequate RADAR reflectors also preclude early detection.

    In my experience in yachts (coastal and transatlantic) we illuminated our sails and/or fired white flares to signal "I am here!". Whether on the yacht or on the MN. Bridge it seemed to result in a safe response. I have yet to find these solutions in the media, but perhaps at 74, I am out of touch.

  15. At 07:47 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Barrie S wrote:

    I trust tghis tragic accident will not bring out the "Nanny State" brigade with calls for more regulations. We do not know the full circumstances, accidents of this type are very rare and, all factors considered, it has to be the responsibility of a small pleasure yacht to keep out of the way of a large commercial. It is also important for the pleasure craft to make its intentions clear well in advance, either by radio or, if need be, an exagerated alteration of course. I have on a few occasions called a commercial vessel on VHF radio to advise that I am altering course to pass clear of its stern

  16. At 11:09 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Ian Miller wrote:

    I have skippered a 35 ft chartered yacht in the Solent and travelled from Spain on the Pride of Bilbao to pass Bembridge in daylight. I was back seat driving the ferry as she rounded the Isle of Wight to the south east. I tried to predict the course she would take around the ships parked there. I was surprised to realise that although the ferry appeared to be on a constant bearing for several seconds, a longer sighting made it clear that the bearing was actually gradually decreasing describing a very gentle curve. Since ferries can easily be travelling ten times as fast as a yacht, sailors are very aware of being on a collision course with a ferry using a visual constant bearing sighting and plan well ahead to keep clear. This can be very difficult to do if the other craft is on a gradually changing bearing. I would not want to be in the position of trying to keep well clear of a fast moving ferry at night if I knew that it was gradually changing course.

  17. At 10:50 AM on 14 Dec 2007, C.E. Leggett wrote:

    As a retired Master Mariner I think that many yachtsmen overlook the general princple behind the International Regulations for prevention of collisions at sea. That is that where two vessels meet and there is risk of collision, the vessel which can give way more easily does so.

    Hence when two sailing vessels meet, the vessel which is running free keeps clear of the vessel which is close hauled. The case where steam gives way to sail was intended for the large sailing ships, barques, etc. Incidentally, by an Admiralty Court decision, sailing vessel keeps clear of a steam vessel engaged in trawling.

    One should not jump to the conclusion, that simply by hoisting a sail aboard a small dinghy, one can stand on to a large ocean going vessel.

    The reulations also state that quote 'Nothing contained in these rules shall exonerate any vessel, the owner, the master or crew thereof, for the failure to carry lights, to keep a lookout, or anything which may be required by the ordinary practices of seamen' unquote.

    By the ordinary practices of seamen, small craft keep well clear of large vessels.

    In other words use commonsense.

    As regards to the question of compulsory
    licencing of yachtsmen, such a policy would be very difficult and expensive, if not impossible to
    enforce. In any case it could be got round by registering the yacht under a flag of convenience. So I doubt if it would ever be seriously considered.

  18. At 01:31 PM on 14 Dec 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Ian Miller @ 16, I suppose though that if the ferry isn't to continue in a straight line until it hits a beach somewhere it must change course at some point, and other vessels on the water ought to know this? So whether they like it or not, they need to be able to avoid it because let's face it, rules can be whatever they like but the ferry is dangerous to the yacht, whereas the yacht is unlikely to be dangerous to the ferry. In the same way, a bicyclist may be in the right if he undertakes a large lorry, but if that lorry indicates and turns left the bicyclist is the one who will be damaged, and it is simple self-preservation not to get in its way: being postumously shown to have had the right to be there isn't much use to the dead.

    The rule that steam gives way to sail was surely intended to be because it was originally easier for a powered vessel to alter course or speed than for a wind-powered one, and in many conditions this may still be so; but to be fair, a sailing yacht can almost certainly get out of the way more easily than an oil-tanker can: it takes several miles for something that size to come to a halt, doesn't it?

    Or to put it another way, if I were stooging about out of Dartmouth I wouldn't try conclusions with something into whose hold my vessel could fit without effort, especially not at night and if I were unsure I had even been seen: I would dodge. It does have to be said that the Pride of Bilboa isn't exactly a stealth-vessel! In the same way I'd teach a chiild not to run onto a zebra crossing without warning in front of a car doing thirty: the right of way is clear, the rule is clear, but the child is still the one at risk, not the driver of a car that simply cannot change speed in a five foot distance from thirty mph to zero.

    If the PoB had run down a moored vessel that would be a different matter, but in this case I feel that the modern dictum about 'all accidents must be somebody's fault' might have been a bit unfair on the officer of the watch aboard PoB, who seems to have followed the rules as best he could.

  19. At 02:12 PM on 14 Dec 2007, Mike Collar wrote:

    Is Ian serious when he says - "The watch officer will often be a very busy man or woman, and looking for yachts is down the scale of things to be done" -. Surely looking out for ALL other vessels is at the very top of the watch officers agenda in fact it is the one thing above all he should be doing.
    The real issue here is why having seen a small vessel pass so close the officer of the watch did not take steps to confirm she was safe before proceeding.

  20. At 02:20 PM on 14 Dec 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Chris (),
    "The rule that steam gives way to sail was surely intended to be because it was originally easier for a powered vessel to alter course or speed than for a wind-powered one"

    It also expresses a sensible universal order of precedence of life over machineery, which we ignore at our peril.

    I'm not often in urban situations (fortunately!), but I do often think of the poor sods who have to go down stairs, through dank tunnels, and then climb more stairs, just so some lazy b*ggers can drive through some intersection without having to avoid killing pedestrians.


    Namaste -ed

    "You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak For anything tougher than suet;
    Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak --
    Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

    "In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
    And argued each case with my wife;
    And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,
    Has lasted the rest of my life."

    "You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
    That your eye was as steady as ever;
    Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose --
    What made you so awfully clever?"

    "I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
    Said his father. "Don't give yourself airs!
    Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
    Be off, or I'll kick you down stairs!"

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