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  1. #1
    glennytots is offline Registered User
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    Default Crossing Separation Zones in Small Yacht

    I am thinking about taking my Jeanneau Tonic 23 (with outboard) across the Straits of Dover this year if the conditions are suitable (ie F 2-4 / slight). Although I crossed the channel several times some years ago, it was always much further west in a much larger yacht with a powerful diesel to help me keep out of trouble in the TSS.

    Now contemplating what I imagine will be denser traffic in the Straits, in a smaller, slower and less capable yacht, I am more conscious it might be trickier to take avoiding action than I'm used to, not least because of the possibility of ferry traffic from behind or in front. I want to be clear on my options for avoiding ships, more critical in the Tonic as I can't rely on the engine to give me extra speed to pass ahead of conflicting traffic where necessary.

    The regs state that I have to steer at right angles to the TSS direction of traffic to minimise my time in the zone. How closely this is policed? Presumably it is acceptable to alter course by 20 degrees or so for a few minutes in order to pass behind a ship or avoid a ferry?

    Otherwise, another option would then be to reduce my speed or even heave to while a ship passes but these options are tricky in the Tonic if the sea happened to be rougher than anticipated (due to wake from shipping ??) as I'd possibly lose steerage with my light weight and high windage.

    Otherwise, is it preferred to turn parallel to the direction of traffic (in the same direction as the shipping of course) for a while to allow ships to pass ahead or to avoid a ferry.

    Any thoughts from sailors of small yachts who have made this trip?
    How much difference to the sea state does wake from the concentrated shipping make in the TSS?

  2. #2
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    I've done this crossing many times.

    If you can't keep up 4kts with your engine, don't attempt it. You can sail of course, weather permitting, but the engine is an essential backup.

    There is policing of the straight by CG stations on both sides as well as by spotter planes when necessary. They have been known to come down heavily on flagrant abuses of the TSS rules, but seem to be tolerant of mild deviations - obviously you must change course in case of risk of collision.

    Incidentally there is no reporting requirement for yachts crossing but Dover CG do seem to like you to let them know. However, do not expect them to offer advice on how to cross.

    Two points to start with. First, we have found that ships always treat us (from ColRegs point of view) as if we were motoring, regardless of whether we are actually sailing. Second, most ships like to travel right on the outer edge of each shipping lane, so once through this queue your passage is much more free.

    When you cross the first lane, bear in mind that you are the stand-on vessel (ships are approaching on your port side). At the same time you have a clear responsibility "not to impede" ships in the TSS. It seems that no-one is quite sure what these two requirements, taken together, imply. Some ships will give way and turn to go behind you but some will stand on. This means it is very inadvisable to heave-to in the TSS. If in doubt, turn right round and head away, wait for a better gap in the traffic.

    On crossing the second lane you will always be regarded as the give-way vessel by ships in the TSS. That is much easier to cope with, as you can just pick your ship, wait, and then head to pass behind it.

    Find out the routes the cross-channel ferries use and keep clear of these, as it is just an extra complication. If you do get near their routes beware, they will come alarmingly close, but these ferries are very manoueverable and quite used to dealing with yachts.

    The Dover Straight is always choppy, specially close to Dover, and I don't think you'd notice much extra effect of the ships unless you got far too near.
    Last edited by AndrewB; 23-01-12 at 06:05.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by glennytots View Post
    .... Otherwise, another option would then be to reduce my speed or even heave to while a ship passes but these options are tricky in the Tonic if the sea happened to be rougher than anticipated (due to wake from shipping ??) as I'd possibly lose steerage with my light weight and high windage.

    Otherwise, is it preferred to turn parallel to the direction of traffic (in the same direction as the shipping of course) for a while to allow ships to pass ahead or to avoid a ferry. ...
    The former point is less suitable than the latter. You should when crossing a TSS at right angles to the lane, turn parallel and in the correct direction, until the faster vessel passes and then continue at right angles across the stern of the vessel.
    Having time is unavoidable.

  4. #4

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    Heading at right angles to the TSS; it is perfectly acceptable to turn temporarily towards the stern of the ship and tuck in behind. This does not count as going the wrong way in a TSS. If you turn with the ship it will take forever to make the transit, and the next one will be arriving.

    There was a very long thread on this a few years ago, and I checked with the author of Guide to the Collision Avoidance Rules.
    Last edited by Skysail; 23-01-12 at 08:54.

  5. #5
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    Default Rule 8

    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewB View Post
    It seems that no-one is quite sure what these two requirements, taken together, imply. .
    Not True. A vessel under 20m in length or any sailing vessel must not impede the passage of a vessel using the TSS. "Impede the Passage" is defined in Rule 8. Simply - you must not allow your vessel to get into a position where a risk of collision exists. You must keep your wits about you, think ahead, and take early action so that no risk of collision exists. Once there is a risk of collision, then the normal Colregs apply - and if that makes you the stand-on vessel, then you will have impeded the passage of the other vessel using the TSS.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikemanor View Post
    Not True. A vessel under 20m in length or any sailing vessel must not impede the passage of a vessel using the TSS. "Impede the Passage" is defined in Rule 8. Simply - you must not allow your vessel to get into a position where a risk of collision exists. You must keep your wits about you, think ahead, and take early action so that no risk of collision exists. Once there is a risk of collision, then the normal Colregs apply - and if that makes you the stand-on vessel, then you will have impeded the passage of the other vessel using the TSS.

    Oh so clear & precise written down like that. Unfortunately there is no clear point when a risk of collision occurs - that is somewhat sunjective is it not?
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  7. #7
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    Well, there is a very clear point - if the bearing of the approaching vessel remains constant there is a risk of collision.

    However, you are right that, for example if a large vessel or tow is close, then the bearing may appear to change slightly but there is still a risk of collision. Rule 7 helps us out here by saying "If there is any doubt, such risk will be deemed to exist".

    My point really about crossing TSSs is that you cannot assume that you will be the stand-on boat because that accepts that you have left it too late and have impeded the passage of the vessel in the TSS.

  8. #8
    davidjackson's Avatar
    davidjackson is offline Registered User
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    A small vessel crossing a TSS must not impede the passage of a vessel using the TSS; and therefore by definition can not be a stand-on vessel.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidjackson View Post
    A small vessel crossing a TSS must not impede the passage of a vessel using the TSS; and therefore by definition can not be a stand-on vessel.
    Once a collision situation is deemed to exist then 'normal' collision avoidance rules then apply - ie you may still be the stand-on vessel at this point.

  10. #10
    Pye_End's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikemanor View Post
    My point really about crossing TSSs is that you cannot assume that you will be the stand-on boat because that accepts that you have left it too late and have impeded the passage of the vessel in the TSS.
    Ships often seem to make small changes when it is still on your visible horizon, whereas average yachtie might wait to see what the situation is at 2 to 3 miles, especially if other traffic is about. Probably as a result of them using sophisticated software on their radar, rather than us using eyeball and a handbearing compass - they will invariably weigh up the situation first. So yes, we are often 'too late' compared with them.

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