Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Things that sneak up on you - 948

What weighs 20,000 tons, is 1000 feet long, travels at 20 Knots and sneaks up on you? Freighters. You wouldn't think something that looks like it isn't even moving when you are on shore could sneak up on you when you are sailing, but it has happened several times to me. Freighters often don't see you, and even if they are looking for you on radar you are invisible. I at first found it impossible to believe that sailboats are inherently difficult to spot on radar, but I have had enough encounters with these behemoth vessels to believe it. Apparently a 40 foot piece of aluminum mast does not reflect radar well because it is rounded, and the Fiberglas hull is even worse. The only solution to this is to keep a good watch, but they still sneak up on you. A sailor in the Atlantic caught sight of a freighter just as it sliced the front of her boat where her 12 year old son was sleeping. This kind of thing scares me. I have timed several freighters from when I could see them during the day at horizon to when they passed me. It takes 20 minutes. The problem is that they sneak up on you from behind because they are traveling four times as fast as you are and they are for most purposes silent on all but the calmest day. I am going to buy some kind of timer that goes off every five minutes so that the person at helm can prairie dog and look around. 20 minutes isn't very much time on a sailboat.

No comments: