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Ships and Trucks Passing in the Night

January 3, 2014

There is not much traffic out here. It’s been over a week since I saw a sail boat and three days since I saw a ship. But when I see a ship, the first signs of which may be a blip on the radar, or more likely, a triangle showing up on my plotting screen, I immediately am alert and move the cursor to the ship to get the information I need to feel safe from collision. When the last ship came up on the screen it was a dark night. It was 24 miles away and coming at me at around 20 knots, and I was heading toward it at 10 knots. At ten miles away we still appeared to be heading on a collision course, though the AIS system said we would miss one another by half a mile - it did not look like that. I could see both his port and starboard lights so he was still headed at me. At three miles away I called him on the radio, as the screen gave me his name. We agreed to pass "port to port" (left side to left side), just like two cars passing on a highway. And still I watched carefully until he passed.

Afterwards I began to reflect on how very little we are concerned when in the middle of the night on a rural highway we see a truck coming at us. He has his side of the road, I mine, we both see one another and there is a line down the middle. No concern - we pass each going at sixty miles an hour and avoid a 120 mile an-hour impact, and no concerns. But at sea and at night, it’s different. I was very alert and a little concerned until he passed by a half mile off - enough space for 300 Mack Trucks side by side to be between us!!

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