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Near collision was not due to GPS error

Jan 1, 2003

To David Content's self-imposed "lessons" ("GPS waypoint error," Issue 108), let me add the following suggestions: 1. Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate. 2. Proper use shall be made of radar equipment if fitted and operational to obtain early warning or risk of collision. 3. A collision course with a ship at unknown distance, as indicated by masthead lights "one stacked on the other" calls for collision avoidance, not waiting for the radar to warm up or a VHF response.

Suggestions 1 and 2 aren't mine, and they aren't really suggestions; they're quotes from International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea. Kermedec's failure to comply with them doesn't relieve Mr. Content of his obligation to comply. As a more practical matter, why argue with tonnage?

I disagree with Mr. Content: "Consider that my encounter with Kermedec would have been much more difficult and dangerous if the wind had been on my starboard beam, forcing me to turn to windward in order to avoid the collision." To avoid collision, you quickly alter course in a "readily apparent" manner; in this case, you fall off, fast! On a direct collision course, to alter course in the quickest way possible on a sailboat, you fall off. If that means you beat to windward later, then you beat to windward later.

As a final request to the editors, please do not title near misses caused by bad luck and a failure to keep a watch a "GPS waypoint error." This incident had nothing to do with GPS.