Near miss, close to home, for teen circumnavigator
Jul 13, 2009
Days from the end of his voyage around the world, Californian teenager Zac Sunderland had a near miss with a containership off of San Diego. Sunderland only became aware of the ship&mdashwhich was sailing without navigation lights&mdashwhen it appeared on his AIS, closing on him at 19 knots. He missed it by less than a quarter of a mile.
I tried to hail them a couple more times and then the San Diego Coast Guard heard me and they tried to hail the ship. Still no response. By now the ship was less than a mile away. I grabbed my flare gun out of the chart desk and watched the blip on the radar screen hit the half mile mark.
'The Coast Guard was still hailing the ship but with no response. I told the Coast Guard that if they came within a 1/4 mile I would start shooting off flares and went back in the cockpit to stare at the lights trying to make out the silhouette of the ship.
'The ship crossed the 1/4 mile mark I put a flare in the gun. Just then I saw the silhouette of the ship so I altered course a bit more and the ship passed less than 1/4 mile off. It is pretty crazy to have a ship with no one on lookout. It only took about 15 minutes for the ship to pass me after the 4 mile alarm.
If he maintains his current schedule, Sunderland will become the youngest solo circumnavigator in history when he returns to Marina Del Rey, California, later this week.