Would you follow HM instructions even if you considered them unsafe?

EugeneR

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When approaching the Portsmouth harbor exit last weekend, I noticed two sail boats entering the harbor, one behind the other. I also noticed that they were very close to the western / shore side of the small boats channel, about one mast length from the shore.

I then saw that the QHM harbor patrol boat was between them, having a go at one of them. I can only assume that they were being told to stay as close as possible to the side, possibly in an attempt to re-emphasise the small boats channel, leading to them being that close to the side.

My immediate reaction was that this was rather risky as there was a rather strong (F5+) wind blowing towards the shore. Also, this caused a problem for me as I was now supposed to pass between them and the shore.

I considered this to be unsafe and, as a result, steered to leave with the sail boats on my starboard side. While knowing that the QHM patrol was there, I felt that safety was more important.

As expected, QHM came over lights flashing. I indicated that I felt that it was unsafe for me to pass between the sail boats and the shore given how close they were and the strong onshore wind.

QHM's response was sorry, you have to leave on the inside of the sail boats i.e. between them and the shore.

At this point, the sail boats were about 3-5 boat lengths away - still coming towards me - and I had to turn to starboard, cross in front of then and turn sharply to port to squeeze in the 15/20 or so metres (rought guess) between them and the shore.

It did cross my mind just to stop and wait; however, that would have implied the sail boats passing on the wrong side and probably a fine of some sort. Given the need to move quickly, I did as they suggested. Fortunately, it was deep until quite close to the shore but I could not know that beforehand - my detailed chart is not that detailed.

Should I have followed their instructions or should I have done what I believe was safe?
 

jfm

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... should I have done what I believe was safe?

Interesting. I would answer "yes", PROVIDED your belief was reasonable. It seems there was plenty of depth where QHM wanted you to go, but you did not have charts telling you that. If such charts exist, and the problem was that you had failed to study them and/or have them on board, I'd take the side of QHM. And vice versa of course.

To put it another way, you can only rely on defences like "I disobeyed their lawful order to preserve my own safety" or "I shot him in self defence" if you have acted pretty much without fault/with all reasonableness yourself. And not having/checking a seachart holes you below the waterline

Just imho
 
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spannerman

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I despair of some of the so called 'professionals' on the water, out harbour police are complete clowns here in Stavanger, last year I was testing a new V42 and the idiot indicated that I should cross under the bows of a departing cruise ship, I would have been out of site of the bridge if I had done this, so I point blank ignored him, next thing he is alongside his gob on overtime arms going like a demented windmill, I just refused to look at him and motored away. A week later in a Hydrolift borrowed from us he tried to cut in between me in a New Windy 52 which only had one motor functioning and my escort boat as we crossed the fjord to our lift.
The guy should be confined to a kids paddling pool.
 
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Should I have followed their instructions or should I have done what I believe was safe?

The trouble is that fines for transgressions of marine regulations seem to be wildly out of proportion with fines for criminal offences so if QHM had decided to prosecute you, I guess you could have been looking at a substantial fine plus heavy costs. I know the small boat channel as it passes the harbour entrance is very narrow so maybe the prudent course of action would have been to hang back until the yachts had passed and the channel was clear. I don't think QHM would have been remotely bothered had you stopped in the water even if the yachts passed you on the wrong side (technically there is no wrong side if youre not making way) but they sure would have been bothered had you exited the harbour with the yachts on your starboard side
 

Tom Price

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WNS?

An interesting question - IMHO far better WNS material than recently posted by DAKA/Tim B.

Am not sure what powers HM's have but assume next to God and not to be defied.
Not having comprehensive charts is unlikely to feature in any dispute but not using the radio might. Your Almanac/pilot will have told you that QHM works on VHF Ch 11 and I would have immediately called to ask for instructions, stating any concerns and specifying your draft - that would have put the patrol launch in the picture from the start.
After that do whatever you're told because you have downloaded the responsibility.
 
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MapisM

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Intriguing situation.

Considering that you probably had to decide double quick, my instinct would have made me think that wherever sailboats have enough draft, so do I.
Therefore, I wouldn't have steered to port and continued on my course, not giving the sailboats any doubts about my intention, but passing as close as possible to them, no matter how loudly their skippers could scream.
And if as I guess you have a boat on outdrives, I would have raised them a bit for good measure.

I understand that this doesn't answer your question, but in this respect - aside from the specific case - in principle I'd NEVER do anything unsafe, just to respect a flashing light.
 

neale

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Had he followed the suggestions of the QHM, volunteer, Patrol and then came a cropper. Would they accept responsibility?

From the QHM website: (my bold)

Volunteer Harbour Patrol

The Volunteer Harbour Patrol is there to assist and advise mariners, they are not a police service, or waterborne traffic wardens – they assist and advise only. The Patrol is on the water from April to November.

If there is a major event, such as the Volvo Ocean Race, Cowes Week, or a major boating event, the Patrol invariably provides marshals and assists. Throughout the summer season, the Patrol is a re-assuring presence on the water at evenings, weekends and bank holidays – the busiest times. No other port in the country has any organisation on this scale or with these unique assets.

The Patrol is a registered charity, entirely dependent on voluntary donations and the goodwill of the amazing volunteers. The VHP operate four patrol craft and two jet skis (all very kindly donated) and have over 40 dedicated volunteers. All our personnel give up their time freely to help. All are RYA safety boat, first aid, RYA sailing and radio trained. During 2009 the patrol has been supported by the following sponsors.

The whole organisation is run by a dedicated committee of volunteers, of which the Queen’s Harbour Master is the chairman. His role is to ensure that we are run properly and efficiently, within all appropriate legislation.
 

landlockedpirate

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About 13 years ago on an MBM cruise in company, we were waiting to enter a sea lock, rafted 3 deep on the pontoon.

The lock keeper indicated that to save time we should remain rafted together and enter the lock 3 abreast.

It was my first cruising experience, and I believed that the lock keeper knew what he was doing. It didn’t end well, with 3 sportscruisers rafted together stuck across the lock gates.

With experience no one would have attempted this manoeuvre, but as a newby I followed the professional’s instructions.

I realise that a lock keeper isn’t as scary as QHM, but the principles the same. So in answer to your question, if I believed that advice given could endanger my crew or boat I would refuse to comply with the request.

While most marine professionals have extensive experience and knowledge, some of them may only have started the job yesterday.
 

Tom Price

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[QUOTE=landlockedpirate:
"The lock keeper indicated that to save time we should remain rafted together and enter the lock 3 abreast"

Where was the MBM leader to advise you?

"It didn’t end well, with 3 sportscruisers rafted together stuck across the lock gates . . .
With experience no one would have attempted this manoeuvre"

Nonsense - with experience it should have been a doddle.
 

Poignard

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That is a narrow channel but there is plenty of room for those who abide by the Colregs and the local regulations..

The ColRegs say you should keep to starboard in a narrow channel.

Perhaps the HM's men were telling the yachts to keep to starboard of the channel.

If they did not, and a real risk of collision existed then you would have to take what avoiding action you could under the circumstances.
 
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neale

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About 13 years ago on an MBM cruise in company, we were waiting to enter a sea lock, rafted 3 deep on the pontoon.

The lock keeper indicated that to save time we should remain rafted together and enter the lock 3 abreast.

It was my first cruising experience, and I believed that the lock keeper knew what he was doing. It didn’t end well, with 3 sportscruisers rafted together stuck across the lock gates.

With experience no one would have attempted this manoeuvre, but as a newby I followed the professional’s instructions.

I realise that a lock keeper isn’t as scary as QHM, but the principles the same. So in answer to your question, if I believed that advice given could endanger my crew or boat I would refuse to comply with the request.

While most marine professionals have extensive experience and knowledge, some of them may only have started the job yesterday.


I find this a very strange request. I was not around 13 years ago, but I know the guys that were, and I can't believe they would have condoned this manoeuvre. What I can say is that as the current MBM cruise leader I would NEVER request this action.

Three different boats with different levels of experience all trying to be controlled by three individual skippers sounds like a recipe for disaster, as it sounds like it was.

I have entered a lock with a single boat alongside which was not under power, so I had complete control of the situation, and even this required extra concentration.
 

Bav34

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I GUARANTEE that if you are an INBOUND vessel trying to pass port to port with outgoing vessels that are overtaking one another you are instructed to go in between them.

:(

I'd rather cross the shipping lanes in fog.
 

landlockedpirate

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landlockedpirate: "The lock keeper indicated that to save time we should remain rafted together and enter the lock 3 abreast" Where was the MBM leader to advise you? "It didn’t end well said:
I've thought about the incident quite a lot since it happened, Kim was actually behind us in the old Missing Link, I think he was unable help because he was laughing too much :)

With 3 experienced skippers it would be possible, but 3 newbies in single engined sportscruisers it was never going to work. The look on my face when I turned the wheel and applied a few revs............. and nothing happened must have been priceless. :D
 

landlockedpirate

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I find this a very strange request. I was not around 13 years ago, but I know the guys that were, and I can't believe they would have condoned this manoeuvre. What I can say is that as the current MBM cruise leader I would NEVER request this action.

Three different boats with different levels of experience all trying to be controlled by three individual skippers sounds like a recipe for disaster, as it sounds like it was.

I have entered a lock with a single boat alongside which was not under power, so I had complete control of the situation, and even this required extra concentration.

We were instructed by the lock keeper, not the cruise leader. Kim knew nothing about the request until he saw 3 of the flotilla tied together and stuck between the gates. He actually published a photo in the mag of us all talking about after we had sorted it out.
 

Pinnacle

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When approaching the Portsmouth harbor exit last weekend, I noticed two sail boats entering the harbor, one behind the other. I also noticed that they were very close to the western / shore side of the small boats channel, about one mast length from the shore.
You dont say from what position you were approaching the narrow part of the harbour entrance. Was it from the West of Ballast as required - see below;

"A traffic pattern is established around Ballast Beacon; Small Boats entering the harbour are to pass close to the east of Ballast Beacon and those exiting close to the west."

If it was, then you would have already been well positioned to look straight into the "gap" between the incoming yachts and the edge of the channel. You also dont say how big the yachts were ( or by extension, how tall their masts were ), but the SBC is deep enough to let us pass safely within touching distance of the Port hand piles - and we draw 2.2m. My best guess would be you draw c1m, so you shouldn't have had problem, at least from a depth point of view.


I then saw that the QHM harbor patrol boat was between them, having a go at one of them. I can only assume that they were being told to stay as close as possible to the side, possibly in an attempt to re-emphasise the small boats channel, leading to them being that close to the side.
Was the patrol "having a go" at them because they were under sail, as opposed to motoring? QHM General Directions 7/10 specifies that;

"All craft fitted with engines, when navigating in the Approach Channel to Portsmouth Harbour, are to proceed under power between No 4 Bar Buoy and the Ballast Beacon."


QHM's response was sorry, you have to leave on the inside of the sail boats i.e. between them and the shore.

At this point, the sail boats were about 3-5 boat lengths away - still coming towards me - and I had to turn to starboard, cross in front of then and turn sharply to port to squeeze in the 15/20 or so metres (my italics)(rought guess) between them and the shore.
Not sure what your beam is, but lets say 4m, so you would have had between 5m and 8m on either side of you as you passed the incoming yachts. This is clearly not a lot, but on a busy weekend boats often pass with much less distance between them.

I have just read what I have typed above and my first impression is that I could come across as being critical. If it does, I apologise as its not meant to be critical in any way. Only you were there and so only you can form a first-hand view of what was reasonable and sensible at the time.

I should add that as we are in Haslar, we use the channel on every trip we make. There are often "incidents". By way of example, last weekend we had a skipper of a charter yacht shouting at us to keep clear of them, as both we and they entered the northern end of the narrow element of the harbour entrance. The cry was " Keep clear, we are under sail". I am still not quite sure how this sits comfortably with;

All craft fitted with engines, when navigating in the Approach Channel to Portsmouth Harbour, are to proceed under power between No 4 Bar Buoy and the Ballast Beacon. :confused:
 

Doug_Stormforce

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..........At this point, the sail boats were about 3-5 boat lengths away - still coming towards me - and I had to turn to starboard, cross in front of then and turn sharply to port to squeeze in the 15/20 or so metres (rought guess) between them and the shore............. Fortunately, it was deep until quite close to the shore but I could not know that beforehand - my detailed chart is not that detailed...........

My first impression is that ideally you would have followed the col regs (with regard to an oncoming vessel)much sooner and therefore been much further to Starboard earlier.

Likewise ideally you would have had a more detailed chart.

As it transpires the HM was correct and only asking you to follow both the local bylaws and the IRPCS.

It is of course a particularly narrow gap, the small craft channel and can be a bit daunting if you don't know it and its busy.
 

Tom Price

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Small Ship Channel ?

Or Ship SMALL CHannel, one which is virtually undefined?
Heaven help you if a Pilot Boat roars out from behind Blockhouse and assumes Right of Way because he's Bigger, Faster, Professional and In a Hurry!!
 

EugeneR

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You dont say from what position you were approaching the narrow part of the harbour entrance. Was it from the West of Ballast as required - see below

I was coming from Haslar marina so was west of the beacon and, as you say, starting to line up with the gaps between the sail boats and the edge of the channel. That's where I realised the gap was a bit narrow.

You also dont say how big the yachts were ( or by extension, how tall their masts were ), but the SBC is deep enough to let us pass safely within touching distance of the Port hand piles - and we draw 2.2m. My best guess would be you draw c1m, so you shouldn't have had problem, at least from a depth point of view.

I was waiting for this question. My perception at the time was around 40-50ft.

IWas the patrol "having a go" at them because they were under sail, as opposed to motoring?

No, both had their sails down / were under power.

Not sure what your beam is, but lets say 4m, so you would have had between 5m and 8m on either side of you as you passed the incoming yachts. This is clearly not a lot, but on a busy weekend boats often pass with much less distance between them.

That's about right, yes. Distance to another boat is not an issue but it's about anticipating what that boat might do e.g. effect of wind, broaching, etc. And then not getting stuck too close between them and the unknown depth right next to the edge.

I have just read what I have typed above and my first impression is that I could come across as being critical.

No problem. I asked the question knowing that I might get criticism on my approach and I appreciate your feedback.

Clearly, there's two parts to this: a) whether I was justified in being concerned about safety at that point, and b) given that I was concerned, whether I should have listened to QHM or not.

Regarding (a), I accept that because I could not predict the depth of my path and over estimated the effect of the wind on the sail boats, I was more concerned that I needed to be. Point (b) still seems a balance of various factors and it's interesting to see the responses here.
 

EugeneR

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My first impression is that ideally you would have followed the col regs (with regard to an oncoming vessel)much sooner and therefore been much further to Starboard earlier.

Likewise ideally you would have had a more detailed chart.

I was lined up to go through the gap, but then decided to move to port as I felt it was unsafe to continue. Until I was told to go back, that is.

Also, looking at my Maptech charts now, I it would not have given me confidence that I would not have come too close to the edge at some projected point. It shows -2.6m and +0.8m and I would have gone both sides of the contour. At the time, I also did not have the exact tidal high in memory as my intended route only concerned the general direction of the tide.


As it transpires the HM was correct and only asking you to follow both the local bylaws and the IRPCS. It is of course a particularly narrow gap, the small craft channel and can be a bit daunting if you don't know it and its busy.

I've been up and down that small craft channel at least fifty or more times so am reasonably familiar with it. Always kept to the channel like I should but never got familiar with depth within a few metres of the edge, though.

In this case, it's just that the gap left to the west of the sail boats that I felt was very small, hence causing my initial concern.
 

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I think this is one you're just going to have to chalk up to experience.

I've been through the small boat channel many times, and it can get a bit tense when everyone starts overtaking and you think you need to avoid them all.

The other thing that really doesn't help is Fort Blockhouse towering over the proceedings, with all those wheelbarrow sized rocks to discourage you from going anywhere near the wall. But in fact, there is a reasonable depth near the rocks at anything other than low springs.

My tactic is - "yes, I might well need to avoid you at some point, but maybe not just yet." So I will continue on what I consider to be about the correct side of the small boat channel until such time as either the approaching boat moves to where they should be, or my nerve cracks and I have to move over to where I shouldn't be because I don't actually want to hit anything.

Judging the above is the tricky bit, but start by holding your course to what you consider to be the correct part of the channel. Accelerate a bit if needed to 7-8kts to gain better steerage through the narrow bit if it's breezy. Hold your course. Then, as the boats coming the other way move to where they should be, smile, a friendly wave, and slow down a bit as it gets wider.

If you imagine it this way, it might actually happen.

Don't get pushed off course by numpties in the wrong place :)
 
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