REAL IFE YOUR STORIES FROM THE EDGE BY CAPTAIN BOB OATWAY
ALMOST DEAD RIGHT?
Knowledge of the rules of the road is critical. But so is common sense,
opines this member, who’s also a professional mariner
You May Get
All the rules in the book, and a captain with the high- est profes- sional stan- dards, can’t stop a barge, ship — or the tug Hope (right) — once it’s too late.
I’M A BOAT OWNER, CAPTAIN OF AN 80-FOOT TUGBOAT, and I work all over New England. While pushing a 130-foot crane barge in Rhode Island a while back, I came upon a sailing class about a half-mile outside Newport Harbor. I was born and raised in Newport, spent most of my life on the waterfront, and this has always been a pleasant sight for me.
So what happened next came as a surprise.
There were six 16-foot sailboats, and one tender with two instructors aboard. It was a
beautiful summer day with plenty of boat traffic, and 10 knots of wind — perfect conditions. The sailboats were stopped, either taking a break or between races. After giving the
standard security call on the VHF stating my destination, I turned to port, as there was more
and larger traffic to starboard. This put the class to starboard. When we were 300 yards off,
one of the sailboats broke from the pack, turned toward my course, and started across my
bow. I slowed further and turned to starboard to avoid him, turning “early and obvious” as
tug operators like to say.
But at 200 yards, the same sailboat
turned and headed across my bow again. I
slowed even more and turned away a second time. At 100 yards off, the boat turned
again and proceeded across my bow for a
third time! At this point, I had to go into
By the time I stopped my 700-ton tug
and barge, the class was 75 feet off my port
side. The youngster on the rebel boat gave
me the one-finger salute, and yelled that he’d
had the right of way. My crew of four stood
on the barge deck in disbelief.
Now, I’ve passed many of these classes in
my 40-plus years on the water. I’ve even seen
instructor boats get between my tow and the
class, as a mother hen would do to protect
PHOTO: DOUGLAS BERNON
AUGUST | SEPTEMBER 2013