No-fear vessel handling

The container ship Ever Given in the Suez Canal in March 2021.

The container ship Ever Given demonstrated the perils of a vessel handling mistake in constricted waters when it ran aground in the Suez Canal in March 2021.

For some voyaging sailors, a night at sea in gale conditions is a piece of cake next to the challenge of maneuvering a single-screw, no-bow thruster voyaging sailboat in the tight confines of a crowded harbor with a crosswind and a current running. Voyagers who are skittish about their vessel handling skills can take some solace in the fact that even the pros make mistakes — sometimes big ones.

A case in point is the March 23, 2021, accident that left the 1,312-foot, 20,124-TEU container ship Ever Given, owned by Evergreen Marine and one of the world’s largest commercial vessels, aground in the Suez Canal. And not simply aground, but sideways athwart the canal, blocking the channel so that no traffic could pass between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. A fine pickle in which to find oneself, especially in Ever Given’s case, with the entire world looking on. At least when you mess up and crash your boat into the dock, no matter how personally embarrassing it may be, usually only a few folks are around to see your mistake. Ever Given, whose grounding was attributed to high winds and a sandstorm, was finally freed from its grounded position on March 29.

This ship handling accident should give all voyagers new leave to brush off any mistake they might make when close maneuvering. You might knock off a patch of paint that will need some touch up later, but at least you’ll never be responsible for holding up international trade on one of the world’s most important waterways.