A photo of Chaser
during a more tranquil moment - far from it the night we left Marina
Rubicon in Lazarote bound for Las Palmas. We said goodbye to Jon, Kate and
Sophie and departed at 21.00hrs Friday 13th, we thought that way we could have a
night sail and arrive in Las Palmas sometime early afternoon. We hoisted sails
and sailed with the wind behind us for most of the way. Chaser is not too
comfortable with the wind behind, our spreaders are swept back preventing the
main sail from opening right out. We were on starboard tack with the wind
about 140 degrees blowing a force 4-5, so Chaser was quite happy but that
was as near to downwind as we can go whilst using the main.
It was a dark night the
moon still sleeping, about 3 O'clock in the morning we saw a ship on our
radar, it was more than 12 miles away at first sight.We marked its position on
our radar, it told us the course, speed and position of the vessel.
According to radar it was heading towards us, we couldn't see any lights at this
time, but as it approached we saw a white light then at about 8 miles
a green light appeared. The lights remained at six miles, no sign of a red
light, from this you can assume that the ship is crossing our bow (6
miles in front) or the red light isn't working!
The radar was indicating
that the ship was coming towards us, the lights indicated crossing our bow.
Radar is good but on small boats it can be a little vague, its
difficult to say accurately that the other vessel is on a 35 degree course,
it could be 20 degrees either side of 35 degrees, however
its useful to have an shouldn't be ignored. The green light remained on
show but the radar didn't agree. If we bore away we would put
ourselves in a position of an accidental gibe. We could control a gibe but this
would lose our speed and the vessel was still closing. We decided to
head up wind more, that way we maintained control and ships speed, we were
on a broad reach doing seven knots. The ship was still closing,
still showing a green light and radar was showing on course for us! We
turned away more, now on a beam reach 8 knots, the ship still heading for us
albeit that we had now moved maybe a quarter of a mile to its right. We shone
our high powered flash light at the vessel but no response, I started the
engine. As we moved more to the right so did this ship, if he was looking,
he would see our port light so he would know our course, and
should see us on his radar. He continued to move to port,
then finally we saw his red light glimmering. At this point we still
couldn't see him, but the vessel was less than a mile away traveling at 18knots!
This was dangerous, we are not in a position to move in any other direction
because we would lose ships speed the last thing we need now. Then we saw it, a
container ship, heading directly for us only 200 metres away, we gave the
engine full power and continued to shine the lamp at his bridge, this must
have woken him and he turned, we were doing more than 9 knots, more
than our boats max speed, helped probably by a few extra horsepower
from our bottoms! It passed by 50 metres from our stern, maybe a
100 metres, but it looked like 10, so for the record we'll say 50. This was a
near miss in anyone's books. We were both too shaken at this point to shout any
abuse or take a note of the vessels name, but later called him a few expletives,
by this time he was long gone. We did note however that his red light was
still visible from his stern when he was 3 miles away suggesting that his port
light was out of alignment.
Shaking a little after
the event we could do with a stiff drink, unfortunately we had to make do with
tea, we still had a way to go. After the adrenaline subsided, you run over
the events in your mind and ask, should we have done this? or that? but no
matter how many times we thought about it, I believe our course
of action to be correct. We could or should have called him on
the VHF at 6 miles but he obviously wasn't taking his watch seriously, we did
call the next time.
It's not unknown for
ships crew to deliberately change their course to give a small boat a scare, it
was a small ship as far as container ships go, so he had 'some' maneuverability
compared to larger vessels.
In summary our radar was
showing correct, at 12 miles he was heading straight for us, and despite the
searoom we made on a beam reach he continue towards Chaser at 200 metres,
proving his continued bearing away toward us, and confusing the issue, his
Sun rise and then shine,
a lovely day, catch a few rays, give the fishing lure a swim and arrived
Las Palmas 14.30hrs, we were directed to our mooring about an hour
later, tied up and took our belated drink. It's weekend not much
open, we're just gonna chill.
More about Las Palmas