Freighters vs Cruise Ships, a brief rant
12 April 2012 | La Cruz, Banderas Bay, MX
Prior to starting this journey our biggest fears were being assaulted by whales (it happens more than you would think), and being runover by a cruise ship or freighter.
Us and the whales have kept a respectful distance with the only exception being the two that were 50 feet on the bow, but even they moved off prior to an inter species incident.
Cruise ships and freighters move along at anywhere from 12-20kts and we move from 5-7kts. Their tonnage and velocity mean we will lose any fender bender battles so we always maintain a very keen eye once they enter our 15 mile (self imposed) ring of caution. The distances and time may seem long but keep in mind that these vessels need almost a mile to stop or turn, so inside of 1 mile is absolutley dangerous, in open water situations.
Our first contact with a vessel on a collision course was with the Carnival Splendor in northern MX . As they got to within 5 miles we still saw a collision course as did our AIS/Chartplotter. Because this was our first experience with this we were both on edge and overly worried. We called them on the radio and they immediately answered and stated that they saw us and were altering course to pass at three miles. Sure enough they passed at exactly three miles. Later, on the cruise to Cabo, we were on a collision course with a Disney ship. Again a quick call and they stated the new course they were moving to and distance they would clear us at, and they were good to their word. Several other times we have seen the cruise ships alter course prior to, and without a radio call. We feel these are very professional and courteous Captains and crew and have no fear of being run over by a cruise ship at this point. They are a pleasure to share the ocean with.
We couldn't be more worried about freighters however. In the only two times we have been close to freighters, both have come inside of 1 mile of us prior to avoidance measures. The first was during some heavy seas and wind, so altering course for us would prove difficult. As we watched the frieghter close to within 2.5 miles on a collision course we called them on the radio. We have their name and all pertanent information on our AIS so we know who we're calling; but when we called them the captain came on and stated we were trying to call the wrong vessel!! There were no other vessels within our radio range. After he said that, he refused to respond to any further hailing calls to see if they saw us or intended to alter course. But it was also at this point that he altered course. He passed less than a mile to our stern.
The second incident happend on an overnight watch. A freighter and a Disney cruise ship both appeared 15 miles to our stern about 5 miles from each other and closing at 10kts. As we were being overtaken we were the right of way vessel and they the give way. As had happened previously, the Disney ship altered course at about 5 miles and passed safely at 3 miles to starboard. The freighter did not. He kept coming and growing much larger. Within 2 miles he still didn't alter course, nor respond to any radio calls. At this point I could see the windows on the bridge getting bigger and the wake off the bow. At 1 mile I turned on all the lights on the deck and started a hard turn to port. Just then he must have woke up, becuase he then initiated a hard turn to starboard. I spent the rest of my watch coming down from a small adreniline burst.
The freighters we have encountered thus far have been jerks, and have shown no regard for the "rules of the road". While we understand we're an inconveniance for them, if we start making turns in anticipation of them not turning, then they decide to turn, we make matters far worse.
Apologies for the negative post but we assume some want to know the silly things like this.