How close would you pass behind another boat?

gandy

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Hi,

This bugged me. We were sailing close hauled on Starboard tack, heading N at between 2 and three knots. The other vessel was motoring, heading E at 6 knots or maybe faster. From the start I was reasonably sure he would pass behind us, but as far as I could see he made no alteration of course at all. In fact when he got closer and it was apparent he'd pass clear (but close) he even made a slight turn to Port, to shave even closer, finally passing around 20' behind us with the helmsman looking blankly straight ahead.

What do others think? I consider that at best discourteous and potentially dangerous. Particularly as there was nothing that I could have done to increase separation once it became apparent he was a dickhead.
 

doris

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Can't see a problem with 20 ft separation if the water was flat and wind light.
Therefore why 'd*ckhead'?
A wave might have been nice though!
 

johnalison

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I have to admit to often sailing close behind other boats, especially when close-hauled. I have the advantage of knowing that my boat won't round up in a gust, but on the whole I try not to alarm the other boat. It is usually best to try to establish eye contact before the crossing.

The difficulty used to arise when it was common to deploy a trailing log and several boat-lengths clearance was needed. Even today, some boats will trail something such as a mackerel line, so the onus is always on the leeward boat to ensure that nothing will go wrong.
 

Halcyon Yachts

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In open water I would leave quite a large gap. During the round the island race maybe just a few feet!

It's the staring straight ahead and not waving that would bother me... Always wave to a fellow sailor (or even moboer)!

Pete
 

Bobc

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Hi,

This bugged me. We were sailing close hauled on Starboard tack, heading N at between 2 and three knots. The other vessel was motoring, heading E at 6 knots or maybe faster. From the start I was reasonably sure he would pass behind us, but as far as I could see he made no alteration of course at all. In fact when he got closer and it was apparent he'd pass clear (but close) he even made a slight turn to Port, to shave even closer, finally passing around 20' behind us with the helmsman looking blankly straight ahead.

What do others think? I consider that at best discourteous and potentially dangerous. Particularly as there was nothing that I could have done to increase separation once it became apparent he was a dickhead.

You haven't sailed in the Solent yet, have you?
 

Serin

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20 ft or so doesn't sound too bad, but, all the same, I think there is some cause for complaint.

The regs (them again!) do require us to make our course changes obvious so that the other skipper can see what we are doing. An awful lot of people seem to forget that the whole object of those regs is to introduce predictability to the situation. If I'm going to pass close, it isn't enough for me to know that's what I'm doing - the other skipper needs to know too. The reason for that is too obvious to state yet again.
 

dunedin

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The key thing when it looks like a close encounter is always - is anybody on the other boat actually looking or is the boat on autopilot with nobody on watch.
Whilst a 20 foot crossing may be OK if confirmed they have seen us, it isn't enough to be sure in advance.

A few years back I was skippering a boat with trainees, and we were on converging course with a yacht motoring off Arran. Perfect visibility in full sunshine. For a full 15 minutes I advised the helm to stand on as they should see us and alter course.
Eventually we took avoiding action and as passed hailed (very loudly) the other boat. Solo sailor emerged from below wearing full chef's apron - clearly engrossed at the cooker for the past 20 minutes without once looking out.

Perhaps we need a day signal for "human in charge and on lookout" vs "proceeding under android autopilot and wishful thinking"
 

gandy

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Thanks for the comments. I should have mentioned there were no other vessels or obstacles within about 3/4 of a mile. Why dickhead? The change of course to Port, for which there can have been no good reason, and put us back into a potential conflict with effectively nothing that I could have done about it. In the light wind for me to keep clear I've had to tack when they were around 1/4 mile away. As for the 20' separation, if that had resulted from an actual avoiding action it would have been a lot more reassuring, in the middle of open waters it gives the impression of him wallying along and only avoiding us by good luck. Or of being so pigheaded he didn't want to deviate from his straight line course.
 

prv

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Perhaps we need a day signal for "human in charge and on lookout" vs "proceeding under android autopilot and wishful thinking"

If I'm going to keep clear of someone, but pass close-ish because I don't want to lose too much ground to leeward, I'll make a big obvious (30° or 40°) turn to the side I'm planning to avoid them and then slowly come back. I think most people (around here at least) understand that to mean "I've seen you, and I'm going to avoid you like this".

Pete
 

jwilson

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Racing: about three feet if in a cruiser, three inches if in a dinghy. I know though that doing that will terrify most cruisers so give quite a bit more clearance......
 

bbg

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20 feet seems OK in those conditions. It wouldn't bother me if someone passed that close behind me, and it wouldn't occur to me that it was a problem for me to pass that close behind someone else.

As with Halcyon, anyone passing that close should be courteous enough to wave and smile.
 

lw395

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Unless he's making big wash, it's no big deal.
Better than passing 20ft ahead of you.
There is no colregs issue because there was no risk of collision.

We might view it as being unnecessarily close, and it's closer than I'd normally go for no reason when motoring, but it's no more issue than being in a big open space like a park and somebody choosing to walk close to you.

If I was sailing to windward and wanted to make best advantage, (either because I was racing or to avoid other obstacles etc) I would pass much closer behind.
As was said on another thread, we pass much closer at much higher speeds in our cars and think nothing of it.

Try boating on the Thames or similar, 20ft is a big slice of the river....

Years ago, you might have been expected to have a towed log, but I would imagine there are boat owners who never heard of such contraptions.
 

AndrewL

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I had something very similar happen, I was close-hauled on starboard and the other boat close-hauled on port, in daylight with good visibility. Like the OP I was sure the other guy had seen me and I was 99% sure he would pass behind me but it would be close. He did not alter course in any perceivable way and although he gave a friendly wave once he had passed, there was no acknowledgement before hand.

In the end he did pass behind and it was close. I'm sure that the other skipper intended to pass exactly this close behind me and he knew it would all work out. But while we were getting closer I did keep wondering "has he seen me" and wondering at what point I should do something, knowing that if I did do something I would no doubt make things worse. I fully understand that no one wants to give ground when sailing upwind but in this instance I was stand-on and was not sure of the give-way vessels intentions.
 

Alan ashore

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Hi,
From the start I was reasonably sure he would pass behind us....

Out of interest, what observations and thought processes led you to be reasonably sure he would pass behind you?, and in broad terms how far away was he at "the start" when you first started considering him?
 

niccapotamus

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something which happened to us motoring into Cowes a few weeks ago - us and another boat were pootling up towards sheppards under power. it was busy because of the weekend traffic and boats there for the powerboat racing. A guy under sail (no engine running in about a 33ft yacht) sailed between us overtaking - he had about three foot either side of his beam. It was all fine luckily but we'd have been absolutely ferked if a boat had popped out of one of the marinas or a problem had occurred leaving us needing to take avoiding action.

I'm not sure I would have been sailing in such congested waters either, but that was his perogative.

to my mind that was pushing his (and by extension) our luck
 

Serin

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Unless he's making big wash, it's no big deal.
Better than passing 20ft ahead of you.
There is no colregs issue because there was no risk of collision.

I disagree. At such close quarters there is always a risk of collision if either skipper (or both) makes a false move. And that is far more likely if one skipper is forced to rely entirely on the fine judgment of another without any sign of his or her intentions.

A couple of years ago we were running into Harwich Harbour on the starboard gybe with a boat reaching across on port. He appeared to be heading to cross behind us, but suddenly seemed to think better of it and held his course, crossing close ahead. Just as he did so, we we were both hit by wash from a pilot boat. We ploughed on, being a lot bigger and heavier than the other boat. He stopped dead directly in front of us. I just managed to avoid hitting him, which was lucky for him, as he would have come off worse.

The unexpected can and does happen. Nine times out of ten we get away with things. The tenth we just might not. That's why it's generally better to make doing things right (like keeping clear if we are the give way vessel) a matter of habit and not something we have to think about every time.
 

mainsail1

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If I'm going to keep clear of someone, but pass close-ish because I don't want to lose too much ground to leeward, I'll make a big obvious (30° or 40°) turn to the side I'm planning to avoid them and then slowly come back. I think most people (around here at least) understand that to mean "I've seen you, and I'm going to avoid you like this".

Pete

+1
 
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