Collision!

A fishing boat (not fishing at the time) refuses to give way as the colregs require, a square-rigger doesn’t expect to have to give way – and can’t until it is too late. Don’t do this at home folks…

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The rule of the road told in verses

SS Metapan sunk by the SS Iowan

SS Metapan sunk by a collision withthe SS Iowan; image from Popular Mechanics magazine published in 1915. Image placed on the Wikimedia by Pmcyclist

 

I found the following useful navigation rhymes in a book that Mike Smylie was kind enough to give me at the weekend – it previously belonged to his father. I’ve heard them before, notably from old Sam Larner, but haven’t seen them printed out. And as a bonus they came with some extra verses relating to sailing vessels.

The book is titled The Yachtsman’s Week End Book, written by John Irving and Douglas Service, and I think it’s a gem because of the way it opens a window into the different attitudes of the past. For example I particularly liked this quotation: ‘Four things shalt thou not see aboard a yacht for its comfort – a cow, a wheelbarrow, and umbrella and a naval officer.’

But back to the rhymes – they may be wrong in the current age, so please don’t take them as gospel. I can’t accept responsibility if you do!

Two steamships meeting:

When both lights you see ahead

Starboard wheel and show your red

Two steamships passing:

Green to green or red to red

Perfect safety, go ahead

Two steamships crossing:

If to your starboard red appear

It is your duty to keep clear

To act as judgement says is proper

To port or starboard, back or stop her

But when upon your port is seen

A steamer’s starboard light of green

There’s not much for you to do

For green to port keeps clear of you

However, all ships must keep a look-out and steamships must stop and go astern if necessary:

Both in safety and in doubt

Always keep a good look-out

In danger with no room to turn

Ease her, stop her, go astern

But these rules don’t work so well for sailing vessels. Instead, the following rhyme is proposed:

Now those four rules we all must note

Are no use in a sailing boat

As we’re dependent on the wind

Another set of rules we find

A close-hauled ship you’ll never see

Give way to one that’s running free

It’s easier running free to steer

And that’s the reason she keeps clear

With the wind the same side, running free

One’s to windward, one to lee

The leeward ship goes straight ahead

The other alters course instead

Both close-hauled or both quite free

On different tacks we all agree

The ship that has the wind to port

Must keep well clear, is what we’re taught

At other times the altering craft

Is the one that has the wind right aft