Dealing with Shipping | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Dealing with Shipping

Crossing the English Channel means crossing one of the busiest area of shipping in the world, and there is also the possibility of fog or reduced visibility to make it more thrilling! Just what you need when facing 4-5 ships heading your way all at once... Shipping used to be a real worry and night passages were filled with bearings and calculations and worry as we observed their lights on the horizon and tried to figure out their intentions.

AIS to the rescue! This crossing was another good example of why an AIS unit is an excellent investment for anyone venturing out into busy waters. We left the dock in Chichester at 0100 and by 0130 had cleared the mouth of the harbour into the English Channel. Our plotter on deck showed our position as well as the fact that we had more-or-less got the expected current. It also showed all the ships in a good 20 mile radius since the AIS receiver passes that info on to the Raymarine plotters.
We shot this image a bit later as we were closer to France. The blue arrow on our boat indicates the current, the red line our heading and the green line where we are actually going with the effect of the current. You can see there are quite a few ships just ahead as we approach the east-bound shipping. When we zoom in we see most of the ships will pass easily ahead or behind us since the AIS also calculates the “closest point of approach” and the time until that point for each ship. Best of all we know the names of the ships so we can call them if we think there is a problem! In this case none were close enough to warrant a call. The stress reduction from having a plotter on deck with AIS info on it is truly amazing!

Now for the first time we have an AIS transponder meaning we are also transmitting so the ships can also see us on their display. Even better!

We arrived in Guernsey in the early afternoon after a calm and stress free crossing. Then on to Jersey where we saw the highest tides we have ever seen!! We arrived just after low water and waited outside the marina.

We are looking at the only entrance to the marina. This wall is the “sill” and is almost 3 meters high blocking our way in. When the tide rises it will cover the sill and allow us in. It will actually cover the sill by more than 5 meters! The tide this day was 10 meters - over 30 feet!!

I took this from the quayside - basically what will be water level when the tide is up. It is quite amazing sailing in these waters since the whole landscape changes so much with the dramatic rise and fall of the tides.

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