Tuesday, May 1, 2012
All vessels, of all sizes, of all Nations, are covered by the "International Rules of the Road" which were first formulated and published in the 1840's. Since then there was a major revision in 1972 and amendments in later years. In the United States of America the Rules are the responsibility of the United States Coast Guard to both publish and enforce them, this is done under NAVIGATION RULES INTERNATIONAL - INLAND COMDTINST M16672.2 followed by a letter indicating the current edition.
All vessels are required to have a copy of the Rules on board (with few exceptions) and all persons operating a vessel of any size are required to know and follow the Rules. Unfortunately those unlicensed persons in recreational boating often do not have this required knowledge. One of the areas where it is clearly lacking is South Florida, which unfortunately is where NAUTICAL LOG resides.
There are some 37 Rules with Rule 38 Exemptions being followed by Annex l to V.
Of these the most important is RULE 5, which states:
Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.
This is of course the key Rule to all the rest of the Rules which cannot be followed if the vessel operators do not know who and what is out there. Immediately one can see the risk in "single-handed" passages and in a disabled person making passages without a non-disabled shipmate. This is not discriminating against disabled persons, in fact one of the principal reasons NAUTICAL LOG came ashore was because of hearing loss. If you read RULE 5 again it requires "hearing" as part of the look-out protocol.
Today vessels are much larger, much faster, and much under-manned. In daylight there is often only one person on the Bridge on Watch and at night there are only two. However at night the Engine Room is most often unmanned, except in larger passenger vessels. So in total there are less people involved in obeying Rule 5 and that single Watch person is engaged in several other duties on the Bridge is therefore multitasking which means distracted from look-out and obeying Rule 5.
In recent weeks there have been several accidents in ocean yacht races sadly the most recent took 4 lives and completely destroyed the yacht involved. Now NAUTICAL LOG has absolutely no knowledge about how they had their Watch set up. The best way would be to have two on deck and two resting with a rotation that they felt was best for them. One on deck would be monitoring the course if steering by auto-pilot or busy steering the yacht by hand. The other person would be fully engaged in obeying Rule 5 by keeping the look-out.
In spite of good equipment both on the other vessels which might be in the area as well as the equipment in your vessel it is the look-out that is required by Rule 5, not as a suggestion but as a must be obeyed Rule of the "International Rules of the Road".
Once again we would draw your attention to the some 300 of our fellow mariners held hostage by pirates off the coast of Puntland, Somalia. They face mutilation and death every hour of every day month after month and many year after year.