On The Radar
20 August 2011 | Franklin Strait
A few days ago, sailing down Franklin Strait, we overheard a call from Canadian Patrol Aircraft 102 to two vessels by name. From the name, I knew one vessel was a sailboat, its name was on the transom, which was vertical, and the letters weren't all that big, so I thought it would be difficult to read that name from an airplane. I also knew that sailboat had an AIS transmitter (this transmits vessel name, course, speed and position automatically, for collision avoidance), so figured the plane was decoding the AIS transmission--otherwise, they would have called the vessel by position, not by name.
About twenty minutes later, I heard a plane. There were enough clouds in the sky that I did not think a plane would see a boat, but within a few seconds, a low-flying plane that looked to be a military Hercules flew by about 100m away (too fast to get a good blog pic). Clearly they had picked us up on radar (we have no AIS transmitter, and the steel deck would make a good radar target). About 30 seconds later, Canadian Patrol Aircraft 102 called us on the VHF by name. I thought they had impressive cameras to be able to take pictures of the boat that were clear enough--at the speed they were going--to be able to read the name on the side of the hull. They said they were on a routine patrol, and wanted to know Vessel Name, Country, Home Port, # of people aboard, Last Port, Next Port and Owners Name. I gave them all the information and they continued on their way.
Today, in Victoria Strait (the blog is a bit behind), in somewhat foggy conditions, the same plane announced it was conduting a routine patrol and flew over us. They were farther away this time (a good idea in fog!), and took a few minutes before calling us by our position. We replied, same information as before, and they continued on their way.
We have heard nothing else on the VHF since leaving Greenland.