A friendly and WELCOME voice
15 November 2010 | Charleston,SC
Sailing at night is a unique experience and very tranquil if the conditions are right, and they were! The winds and swells were light and there were a million stars out.
About 9:30 PM, I was about 40 nautical miles N/E of Charleston and I had been watching the lights of a huge container ship creeping up behind me for well over an hour. From its general heading, I could see that it was likely also headed to Charleston and that we were going to pass very close to each other. (Picture a freight train passing a beer can!)
I had been warned many times by other sailers to never assume that a large ship either sees you or has you on their radar. It looked like the behemouth was going to pass about a mile to my port side, however, if it made a sudden turn near me, I might not have time to get out of the way.
I decided to try to make radio contact with the vessel to make sure that they at least knew I was there. Now, even though the gigantic vessel and I were the only boats within 20 miles in any direction the radio operator seemed to have selective hearing. I tried several times hailing it by its general description, heading and lattitude and longitude but still no reponse.
With us being only a few (shrinking) miles from each other, I know that they heard me but still they would not respond. Cruisers will also tell you that this is a common occurrence. That's why AIS systems that display the names of approaching commercial traffic are so popular. Their hearing suddenly gets better when you call them by name and they know the Coast Guard is listening!
Just when I was about to give up, a familiar female voice came over the radio and gave me the likely name of the vessel. As soon as I called it by name, miraculously the radio operator heard me and responded that they did indeed see me.
The female voice then hailed me again and had me switch to a "working" channel to chat. It was my good friend, Captain Buddy's lovely wife LeeAnne, who works in the Charleston Harbor Pilots Office. How lucky was that?
Anyway, I made it safely into Charleston as the sun came up, checked into my marina and crashed. Here's a sunrise pic from Charleston Harbor.