Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

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kayakbiker
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Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by kayakbiker »

Hi. I have a question regarding yachts and general navigation. On a recent 4 mile crossing that both myself and a friend completed we came accross 2 large sailing boats that crossed right accross our path. What was initially an easy flat crossing became much bumpier as the winds picked up. The body of water we crossed was very large indeed so much so that I was amazed that two yachts would come so close to two small sea kayaks being knocked about in the wind and waves
It was not much fun to stop and sit in place paddling water balancing waiting from them to pass in front of us especially when we were in such a large body of water.
I'm not sure if they either saw us and came closer just to have a look at us or whether they never saw us until they were on us
My question is how hard is it for a yacht to change course. I'm starting to think it must be difficult based on this experience. I'm also thinking in future maybe I need to put out a radio call when doing a bigger crossing so hopefully warn vessels that we would prefer they look out for us and give us space too
What are other peoples experiences and advice. Is this just an expected thing to happen when doing larger crossings.
Thanks for your constructive advice.

Chris Bolton
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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by Chris Bolton »

Yachts can change course quite quickly if necessary, but whether they will wish to often depends on their direction relative to the wind. If going downwind, they can adjust their course without much difficulty, if going upwind, they can't go closer to the wind without tacking, and they won't want to drop down as they loose progress. The great thing about yachts compared to motor boats is that having set their sails for a particular course, they generally keep going. The main except is going upwind, when they may tack (turn from 45º on one side of the wind to 45º on the other). It's quite possible they won't see kayaks until quite close, particularly in a lumpy sea, and if you're downwind of them so that the heel the yacht puts the sails in the way.

So I normally aim to pass behind them; if you do that from some distance away it doesn't require waiting about. The key thing to remember is that if both vessels are on a steady course, if the direction the other is in doesn't change, they'll meet. So if the yacht is crossing from right to left as you look at it, provided it's moving left compared to the direction your kayak is pointing, it will pass ahead.

There are Rules of the Road at Sea, known as COLREGS. See here and here. Most are common sense; keep out of the way of vessels that can't change course easily, etc, but they don't have much to say about manually propelled craft, so you need to interpret. The one to remember is that in a head to head situation, turn to the right. I generally turn away early, in any situation, as it's much easier to see a kayak side on the bow on.

Yachts are generally easy to avoid as they know the rules, are predictable in their movements and in most cases are only going twice the speed of a kayak. The ones that worry me are fast powerboats, and particularly jetskis.

I wouldn't put out a general radio call, but if there's a yacht crossing and you don't know if they've seen you, you could call on Ch16 using their sail number if you can see it, or just "Yacht sailing south in the sound of xxx" and then "we are two kayaks about 100 metres on your port bow, we are passing behind you".

mrcharly
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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by mrcharly »

Always aim to pass behind any vessel.

The 'rights of way' have an overriding rule; give way to vessels constrained by their ability to maneuver.

Yachts are constrained by draft and wind - a yacht going upwind can tack easily, if they are heading downwind, not so much (a slam gybe can take the rigging right off a boat).

So give way to yachts, assume that they haven't seen you, and aim to pass behind.

PlymouthDamo
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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by PlymouthDamo »

How difficult it is for a yacht to change course at sea depends on which way he's sailing relative to the wind, what sails he's got up and how many helping hands he's got on board - they have to do something with their sails each time they turn across the wind. We have close encounters with big boats all the time paddling round Plymouth Sound. It can be frustrating - my personal gripe is when a motor boat is steering a 'wobbly' course, so you think you've altered your course to avoid him and suddenly find he's back on a collision course...

As for larger crossings, I've never had any noteworthy encounters, but I maintain a sense of paranoia so as soon as I see another vessel which could be on a closing course, I start panicking and trying to work out whether we're going to get across his track in time or whether we'll have to change our course to tuck in behind them. (i.e. I look at whatever landmarks are behind the yacht - if he's 'overtaking' them, that's an indication he's going to cross in front of you, whereas if the landmarks are 'overtaking' him, that's an indication you're going to cross in front of him.) Which is point number one from me - you don't have to 'tread water' to avoid collision - you can change your course, which is sometimes the easier, more comfortable option in choppy seas.

Point number two - there are 'rules of the road.' Here's a pretty good summary of how kayaks fit into that: http://www.cpakayaker.com/wp-content/up ... heRoad.pdf You can use these to work out who's got rights of way - a useful rule of thumb is that if you're on a converging course with a vessel and you can see his port (red) light, he's got right of way.

Point number three, same as mrcharly: forget the 'rules of the road' - just avoid collision. We're too easy to miss - especially in swell or poor visibility. I occasionally have to drive a fast dive boat at sea and it's a real challenge to spot stuff - and many of the old gits you see in other boats have coke-bottle glasses and many have OD'd on Horlicks.

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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by Aled »

The yachts may simply not have seen you. In a scenario where they could have been on a long voyage and if sailing short handed/alone its quite possible that they were catching up on sleep. They could have AIS alarm activated to wake them up if a big ship were approaching, or radar on alarm (more likely to be AIS on a yacht). Your kayaks would not have registered on any of these systems, and the crews could only be keeping a periodic check for other craft.
Also, if they were sailing hard into the wind, the sails do create a bit of a blind spot, and 'slow moving' kayaks could remain undetected if they remained in this blind spot for a length of time (as Chris said).
On the other hand, if they were awake and keeping a lookout, the 'gentlemanly' thing to do was for them to alter course to keep a safe distance of 'slow moving' traffic if they could do so.
There is 'right of way', but sometimes its more of a wish than a reality. Caveat emptor!

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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by mcgruff »

I think there's a simple rule: unless you've contacted the boat by VHF, rude gestures, expressive dance, or your eyes have simply locked across a crowded sea, always assume you haven't been noticed.
Have fun and don't die.

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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by twopigs »

I would work on the basis that the bigger or faster vessel has right of way ......
Canoeing - bigger boat, broken paddle, more skill!

pathbrae
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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by pathbrae »

twopigs wrote:
Wed Sep 23, 2020 5:00 pm
I would work on the basis that the bigger or faster vessel has right of way ......
Indeed. ColRegs could be shortened considerably!

"Might has Right" just about covers any encounter at sea....
So much sea - so little time to see it.

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Jim
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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by Jim »

Visibility of small boats from yachts can be very poor indeed, when you are a long way off they have these large flappy things obscuring a large part of the view ahead and when you pass through the narrow window of visibility you are still quite small and hard to see, and then you are hidden by the bow.

Quite apart from that it is normal to assume any larger vessel is less manouvrable than a smaller one, and thus to give way to larger vessels. It is much more complex from a larger vessel, but in a kayak it is easy to just assume no one else can see you, and that you will be able to avoid any other vessel better than it can avoid you.

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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by kayakbiker »

Thanks everyone for your comments and valuable advice.
Just to clarify the sailing boats were going downwind very fast. They were really flying!
It was very difficult for us to anticipate how to avoid them because of the speed they were going at and the fact they were heading towards us from our left side as we crossed the channel
While we were in conttol of our boats we were in quite rough confused conditions as you can imagine with the gusty winds that had whipped up . Beam waves to our left
I think based on what has been said that while larger boats obviously have the right of way they should at least attempt to stay away from smaller boats. These two boats didn't. They passed within a few metres of us but then if they can't see us very well I feel lucky that they did at the last few seconds. At keast one of them had the decency to wave as we braced into the wash and waves as they flew past.. 😆lol. I wasnt laughing when it happened though.

Cheers!

Peter M
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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by Peter M »

The col regs clearly state that sail has right of way over a powered vessel. A sea kayak is considered a powered and manoeuvrable craft. What you describe sound like racing yachts with skippers that will follow the regulations to the letter the sailing yachts are the stand on vessel. Assuming that they had seen you, they would purposely hold their course so as not to confuse, the give way vessel, i.e. you. They would expect you to know that. They would only take avoiding action away from the colregs if there is no other choice to avoid an incident. I speak as a current yacht owner but with years of sea kayaking experience behind me

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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by mrcharly »

Ah - if you are crossing a channel, then you really have to give way to all vessels making passage along the channel. You should also cross at right angles.

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Phil Hk
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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by Phil Hk »

A couple of other points to bear in mind:

It is a common courtesy for recreational craft to give way to those racing
The collision regs specify that, whichever the stand on vessel, there is an obligation on both vessels to prevent collision when a close quarters situation imminent (A few metres is very close quarters given speed and conditions described)

Phil

Chris Bolton
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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by Chris Bolton »

If you had a beam sea from the left, big enough to require concentration, it's very likely that the waves were big enough to hide your kayak from anyone approaching from the left. I doubt they would have seen you until 100m away, and that doesn't give them long to manoeuvre if they were going fast. Added to that they may have been concerned that there were more kayaks they hadn't seen, so altering course (assuming they were the stand-on vessel and could see their course was clear) could have caused more confusion.

In practical terms, as said, I'd give way to them, but I'm not sure what the COLREGS would expect:
A sea kayak is considered a powered and manoeuvrable craft.
Having sailed and paddled, I've regarded kayaks as equivalent to sailing craft - unpowered, and less manoeuvrable than most sailing craft - kayaks are slow and sea kayaks can't turn quickly. If anyone has an authoritative source for treating kayaks as powered I'd be interested to read it.

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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by seawolf856 »

Any bikers out there will be familiar with SMIDSY - you have to assume you haven't been seen.

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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by jeremyduncombe14 »

A kayak is NOT considered a powered craft under Colregs - rule 3b defines a “power-driven vessel” as one driven by machinery. Nor is it a sailing vessel ( unless you are sailing it, of course ). It follows that kayaks are not strictly bound by the rules governing rights of way where sailing vessels and/ or powered vessels are at potential risk of collision. This is logical because of the generally large discrepancy in speed between kayaks and sailing/ powered vessels.

However, Colregs rule 1a states that the rules apply to “all vessels upon the high seas”. The only specific reference to “vessels under oars” is in rule 25 which sets out which lights a vessel should show, but this reinforces the point that oar - or paddle-propelled vessels are covered by Colregs generally.

If the rights of way rules do not apply to,kayaks, which sections of Colregs are relevant ? They broadly come down to common sense:
Do not obstruct other vessels, particularly if they cannot manoeuvre easily;
Avoid a collision at all costs, even if this means breaking other rules;
Only cross a channel at right angles, and taking account of the rules above;
Carry a means of communicating with other vessels. VHF radio is obviously good. A white light or flare is a recognised method of warning other vessels of imminent collision.

I have been sea kayaking for some years and have recently taken up sailing as well. I realised just how vulnerable we kayakers are when carrying out a man overboard exercise on a yacht in choppy Solent waters. The “casualty” was almost invisible from 100 meters away, but I would have happily paddled my kayak in those conditions.

For those with nerdish tendencies, the RYA publishes a copy of Colregs with useful commentary. Excellent bedtime reading ! Otherwise, Colregs for kayakers can be summarised as “ stay out of the way and stay safe”.


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kayakbiker
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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by kayakbiker »

Thanks again for the information everyone.

I can confirm they were not racing yachts or racing. They were however very large ocean yachts and both had two or more people on board. We were also crossing at a right angle. The channel was 4 miles wide at the point we crossed but even wider at other points. I also reckon we were passed about half way out around 2 miles.
This was a really massive expanse of water so there was plenty of room for boats to be without getting so close. I reckon there was a maximum of 6 yachts in the area as far as the eye could see
It was probably coincidence that we had two yachts head straight at us but to be honest even after all that has been said I found it intimidating and i do still wonder if they came over just to have a look! With the speed they were going at there was no way we could out manouvre them anyway. Stopping was all we could do
I have also considered how visible we were and we were wearing bright coloured cags. The only thing is we had our lovely carbon werner paddles but its a shame they cant make yellow coloured carbon paddles.. Not as cool looking but perhaps increases the safety and visibility of Kayakers crossing sea channels. Does anyone know if you can get yellow carbon paddles or does carbon only come in black

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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by pathbrae »

Peter M wrote:
Wed Sep 23, 2020 11:10 pm
The col regs clearly state that sail has right of way over a powered vessel. A sea kayak is considered a powered and manoeuvrable craft. What you describe sound like racing yachts with skippers that will follow the regulations to the letter the sailing yachts are the stand on vessel. Assuming that they had seen you, they would purposely hold their course so as not to confuse, the give way vessel, i.e. you. They would expect you to know that. They would only take avoiding action away from the colregs if there is no other choice to avoid an incident. I speak as a current yacht owner but with years of sea kayaking experience behind me
Kayak is regarded as a "craft under oars" in Colregs. Grey area but generally a kayak would be regarded as the stand on vessel. (rational, kayaks are regarded as being fairly slow compared to most power or sailing vessels) However, personally, If I'm sailing I'll keep watch for kayaks and keep out of their way but if I'm kayaking I'll be very aware of how invisible I can be so, again, I'll keep out of the way!

All vessels have an absolute and over-riding requirement to do all they can to avoid a collision, regardless of who has perceived "right of way" (not a concept used in ColRegs...) over the other. The exceptions would be "vessels constrained by draft" and "Vessels navigating narrow channels" who may not have the option of changing course and who would certainly not alter speed very easily!

A call on VHF 16, waving a paddle blade of flashing a torch when there is still reasonable distance between yourself and the closing vessel is often effective in alerting them to your presence - assuming someone is keeping watch!

If there is a race in progress then it's good manners to keep well clear of the competing boats and the support boats / referrees etc.
So much sea - so little time to see it.

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Jim
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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by Jim »

Yachts running downwind are particularly difficult to manouevre. If you steer off the wind you may pick up speed and definitely risk an accidental gybe, a turn off the wind has to be carefully planned and it may take a couple of minutes to get the crew into position to execute it, so bearing in mind that you would have been invisible until they were quite close it would probably have been too late to do it safely. If they were a couple of miles out into a channel not expecting to manouevre for some time, there might have been crew in the galley, making tea or cooking - all that gear needs to be stoed safely before going for a gybe.
Steering onto the wind is safer, but it may still take quite a bit of sea room by the time you have been seen.
If they were flying spinnakers they need even more time to prepare for a manouevre.

Kayakers are particularly difficult to spot in any kind kind of chop. I was once left behind by a bright yellow double kayak in a F4 beam wind in the sound of Sleat, I lost sight of it as it appeared to pass a rather large buoy, so checking my GPS I measured how far away that was, 500m. So in fairly choppy but quite manageable conditions you can become invisible to someone who knows you are there and is watching at around 500m. I seem to recall doing 8 knots directly downwind in a 40 foot yacht, so it would cover 500m in about 2 minutes. That's a pretty small window to see a small boat you might not be expecting to encounter so far offshore so wouldn't be particularly looking for. Sure they spotted you as they passed close by and waved, but they probably only spotted you right at the last minute.

To misquote Blackadder, the colour of carbon, is black. You can get carbon dyed in a small range of colours (red, green, blue and silver I think) and I have seen it used in some racing paddle shafts, but I've never seen it used in recreational paddle blades. Oddly even a black paddle is actually the first thing people tend to see of kayaks, not because they actually see the paddle, but because the water on (or falling off) the blade in the air often catches the light and appears to flash briefly every paddle stroke - depending of course on the position of the sun and the observer.

To be honest, despite your protestations, you could see the yachts coming from a long way off and should have been able to turn your kayaks into the wind (i.e. the direction they were coming from so you wouldn't have lost sight of them) in a much shorter radius than a large yacht can turn. Once pointing upwind you would have had control to hold position by paddling slowly into the wind, or to ferry glide closer or further away from the path of the yachts. To me its a no brainer, just turn towards the yachts so you aren't getting any closer and then return to your course once they have passed. I can turn my Taran 180 degrees on the rudder with monimal speed loss in a radius of around 100m, a bit tighter if I don't mind slowing down and stalling the turn, if I lift the rudder I can skid it round even tighter. To be honet I never measured the radius with my old no rudder boat but I don't think it was any wider than 100m.

It is possible to get lightweight light masts if you are concerned about this sort of thing in the future, I've never used one but one of my friends used to paddle with one sometimes.

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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by john.ruston »

Its a good question. Everyone has a duty to avoid collision and near misses. Perhaps its a good idea to be sure of one's ability to hold a Give Way position
before starting a crossing.
There's an interesting discussion on a Cruiser forum here

https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f5 ... 90361.html

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Re: Yachts and Kayaks Crossing

Post by rockhopper »

Interestingly, all three of the near misses I have had with other watercraft have been with small catamarans (the one or two person size).
On each occasion I was very aware that the person in charge of the boat had their view of me (and on one occasion, myself and two other kayaks), obscured by their sail and they did not seem to think it a good idea to look below the boom so that they had a clear view of what they could be sailing into. On all three occasions I noticed the situation developing from some distance away but was unable to either attract their attention or make a decision on which direction it was best to move in order to avoid a collision. It was only as they were (much) closer that it was possible to anticipate their final course. Each time they passed with a couple of metres, at speed and only seeing me as they passed.
I regularly paddle in areas used by plenty of other watercraft including jetskis, other racing single hull dinghy's and larger sailing and motorcraft so I do find it strange why it is has only been these small catamarans that have been an issue.

Rog.

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