Sailing Aquarius Tips on Tuesday. Interview with Adam Parsons - Master of large vessels

Adam Parsons has been sailing the high seas for the past 40 years, the last 22 as Master aboard Large Vessels. Adam has a wealth of knowledge regarding anything related to ocean going vessels, and everyone sailing could learn a bit from him. The topic of discussion....What does the personnel on the Bridge of that large vessel think of the small sailing vessels? You may be surprised!

Sailing Aquarius Tips on Tuesday. Interview with Adam Parsons - Master of large vessels sentiment_very_dissatisfied 2

Sailing 4 years ago 1,468 views

Adam Parsons has been sailing the high seas for the past 40 years, the last 22 as Master aboard Large Vessels. Adam has a wealth of knowledge regarding anything related to ocean going vessels, and everyone sailing could learn a bit from him. The topic of discussion....What does the personnel on the Bridge of that large vessel think of the small sailing vessels? You may be surprised!

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Most popular comments
for Sailing Aquarius Tips on Tuesday. Interview with Adam Parsons - Master of large vessels

John Waugh
John Waugh - 4 years ago
Absolutely excellent. A must watch for small boat sailors
Peer Boerner
Peer Boerner - 4 years ago
Outstanding! Many thanks for sharing this important and really helpful information.
Dennis MacDonald
Dennis MacDonald - 4 years ago
Ty so much for sharing
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
Thanks
Mark Lacey
Mark Lacey - 4 years ago
Great video Ken, you are the first YouTubers I've seen get the perspective of a ship's officer versus a yacht. Everything he says is on point. I was a Second Mate in the 90's and the reason I left the sea, after 10 years of sailing with UK officers was my experiences with a Trinidadian Third Mate, Greek Mate and British Master. The engine room officers were a mixed bunch too. It was like sailing with the United Nations.


The Greek Mate had the crew venting LNG from the cargo tanks whilst the company, to save money, had welders on deck repairing the fire main. As soon as I saw this from the bridge I put the vessel across the wind and called the skipper. On reaching port in Brazil I got off, luckily I'd done my time for that trip, otherwise I'd have paid my own flight home to the UK. Race to the bottom it was and by the sounds of it, still is. Sad.
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
For you, Adam is sharing what you already know, and experienced first hand. But for most of us small vessel captains, this is an eye opener!
Rick Haass
Rick Haass - 4 years ago
Great interview - thanks!
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
Thanks!
W. Mozart
W. Mozart - 4 years ago
That was, by far, the most realistic, practical and usable advice I have seen on "You Tube". Can't wait for #2. And yes, the intro is much better. Thank you for your work!
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
We are trying!
Rick Engman
Rick Engman - 4 years ago
Nice...very informative
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
Thanks Rick!
Steve Burton
Steve Burton - 4 years ago
Good interview. I really like these technical videos. He had a very interesting perspective on the priority given to radar over AIS by commercial ships. I've noticed that even with the latest 4K radars from top manufacturers like Furuno, B&G and Raymarine (in order superiority generally) that they don't see fibreglass vessels until you are right on them even when the radome is mounted 30' up the mast. While they are great at picking out rain/birds/tankers and even the odd fishing and military ship that isn't broadcasting AIS, they are horrible at seeing even large fibreglass fishing boats with 2 story fly decks let alone sailboats buried down in the waves.  While tankers and the like have much more powerful radars, they are also in my humble opinion a bit less than diligent at looking at them than they probably should be.  

As recreational boaters it is very easy to get enamoured by all the available technology (4K Digital Radars, AIS systems integrated with chart plotters and GPS, VHF radios with DSC (Digital Selective Calling that sounds alarms on the other boat you are calling directly), integrated autopilots and the like.. especially with all the vendors calling out all the supposed advantages these systems brings but there is no replacement yet for the old Mark 1 human eyeball and ear drums. It amazes me how many other boats I see out there that seem to rely on these devices to "keep watch". My experience is that while these are great tools (and I wouldn't leave the coast without them), they are by no means infallible and you still have to keep a vigilant watch where at least every 15 minutes you get up and look around because invariably something will try to sneak in and kill you.

I've also found on my offshore passages (in Amel Super Maramu's like yours) that the big ships often can't see you on AIS even if you have a fully functioning and very recent unit as recreational boats do not have the powerful (25W) Class A AIS systems that commercial ships are required to carry but far less powerful (5W) Class B systems. Also, if it is a busy area with high signal congestion, know that your class B unit is NOT prioritized over Class A and may not be shown AT ALL. On their systems, they can also opt to TURN OFF returns from Class B systems from even showing up because there are so many they clutter up the displays and finally older Class A systems might show them a target is out there but provide no information at all on it (like CPA, heading, intentions, etc). Having called quite a few ships that I've seen on AIS (while also transmitting AIS) to see if they saw us, I'd say that in 70% of the occurrences, they either hadn't noticed us or couldn't see us (I call them when they have a Closest Point of Approach of less than 3 miles and when they are about 8 miles away).  

It was very disconcerting to find that although we can often see them about 25-30 miles out, they usually can't see us at 5-8 miles and like the good Captain says, they aren't often watching anyway. In about 20% of the cases, they don't even acknowledge a direct ship to ship radio call EVEN if you use the DSC feature of your VHF to call them directly. They either aren't paying attention or in two instances I found out (belatedly) that my boat's brand new professionally installed at great cost AIS was run through a splitter and uses the same antenna as the VHF. VHF antennas are optimized for 62Mhz signals and AIS runs at around 58-59Mhz... and can easily be down in the VERY POOR repeption/transmission part of the bandwidth of the antenna... they should either have their own dedicated antenna (in which case they need to be at least 15' away from the VHF antenna) or less optimally a (very unusual to find) mixed mode antenna that is tuned to receive/transmit at around 60 MHz so both spectrums are covered. In one case, we found that by turning on the masthead nav lights, we lost our ability to be seen on AIS because of the interference of an old (5 year old) LED bulb that was interfering with it. We'd turn out the masthead nav lights and we could be seen (on AIS)... turn them back on and we'd disappear. Most boats wouldn't even know they had a problem but we were paranoid about it and checked because of two close calls when the big ships couldn't see us even 2 miles away.

The other thing to note is that Fishing boats are not required to turn their AIS systems on and that military ships most often do not transmit on AIS either. Going up and down the east coast to the Caribbean for the past few years, its amazing how much traffic you see on radar (or by the old Mark one eyeball) that is NOT on AIS. I had one circumstance two years ago where the US Marines were conducting landing exercises with their Osprey (those airplanes with engines that tilt and can take off/land like a helicopter) with a fairly large fleet. They sailed right up along both sides of us even though they must have seen us on radar (and we had lots of Osprey's fly right over our heads). There wasn't any danger of collision as we were probably 4-5 miles from the nearest boat but it was a bit disconcerting to have warships all around you! Of course we never saw them on AIS (and those stealthy Zumwalt class ships are hard to see on radar as well!)

The US Navy of course has run into a few ships out in the Far East (and ran aground once) over the past couple of years so I wouldn't be totally dependant on them to keep away from us in small sailboats either.

On my last trip down from Annapolis to Bermuda (and then on to Martinique) last month, we had a US Navy Warship broadcasting every 20 minutes or so for all boats to keep away from her as they were conducting live fire exercises... She actually did broadcast on AIS for a bit but then later that night (when we could still see her on Radar), we heard this Navy chopper ask her for a fix and she refused to give away her position siting "operation security". While I was tempted to tell the Navy pilot exactly where she was, I figured the fact that she let loose a few dozen shells only an hour earlier might suggest a bit of prudence on our part!

Finally, I always make sure now that in addition to demanding a fulling functioning radar, AIS and VHF systems on any offshore passage I do now, I always make sure I have a 2M Candlepower spotlight handy so I can shine it on our sails (or at last case at the bridge) of any boat who doesn't respond to me (while I'm also furiously trying to turn away if possible). I learned this lesson the hard way 3 years ago when we very nearly were run down by a huge tanker 40 miles off the coast of Charleston. The spotlight was the only thing that got their attention and got them to turn away at the last minute (they passed within 1500 feet of us to port). Now, if one gets to within 2 miles, I will fire up the engine and be prepared to furl in and move away at high speed.  

At six knots of closing speed between the two boats you have 10 minutes to close 1 mile of distance. At 12 knots, that's 5 minutes. I've seen cruise ships and large tankers go by at 24-30 knots (2 - 2.5 minutes/mile). That means that if you are only looking at the horizon every 15 minutes, you could easily be run down by a boat you didn't see from 8-10 miles away (even at night it is hard to pick out even large tankers at more than 8 miles by eye). If I'm anywhere near a shipping lane, I'm in the chair with my eyes acclimated and scanning.  

On the topic of scanning, targets that are going to hit you do NOT move on your windscreen. They just get bigger at the very last minute before they run you down. The human eye is quite good at picking up peripheral movement so you can usually easily notice targets moving across your windscreen but those are not the targets that are going to hit you... it's the ones that don't move (like a bug spot) that are going to get you so it is very important to move your head as you scan... so that your peripheral vision can pick out the movement of those targets. (An old fighter pilot trick).

The most important lesson the Captain imparted IMHO was for us in small boats to FORGET about who has precedence in the rules of the sea... those big ships are not maneuverable, may not see you, may not give you adequate sea room even if they do see you and it's not worth your life to claim right of way. I will always try to maneuver behind them unless I am totally constrained by the sailing conditions (e.g. under bare poles in huge winds when gybing and running away isn't a realistic option). Even if you did survive a collision, the judge will find you at least as culpable for not taking action to move the hell out of the way when you realized collision was imminent even IF you had "right of way". Why fool around with your life and of those you love?

Again, great video. I'd be interested in knowing your watch procedures and experiences transiting the Pacific and now through much busier Indonesia. Fair winds and safe sailing!
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
Hello Steve, Nice to know that Aquarius has some of the smartest SUBS!
Pedro Pablo Serrano
Pedro Pablo Serrano - 4 years ago
Outstanding! Thanks for this video
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
Thanks

10. comment for Sailing Aquarius Tips on Tuesday. Interview with Adam Parsons - Master of large vessels

raja cool
raja cool - 4 years ago
What an incredible, eye-opening interview. Well done,..  bravo Ken!
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
Thank you Raja!
Teunis Baas
Teunis Baas - 4 years ago
Thanks Zivile & Ken. Looking forward to the next part(s)
Teunis Baas
Teunis Baas - 4 years ago
In USA right now and AMELIT on the hard in COOMERA AUSTRALIA until middle/late February and then 2 yearly AMEL maintenance. Will send you Email.
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
Hi Teun!!! Hope all is well with you, and would very much like to see you again sometime! Is Amelit is taking good care of you?
Ray Allen
Ray Allen - 4 years ago
So very informative. Short and sweet, during my time as a sailor, I have always taken the position of sailing defensively in every aspect. There will be no pissing contests with larger vessels...
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
Hi Ray, It's better for the smaller vessel to make the turn as soon as possible. Don't wait for the large vessel to turn, because (As Adam Says), THEY JUST MIGHT NOT.
operator0
operator0 - 4 years ago
I was in the Navy in the 90s. We were doing a connected replenishment at sea a few hundred miles off the coast of South America. For those that don't know, a connected replenishment is when two ships come along side each other, maintain about 12knts and about 50 yards of separation and then shoot lines across to each other so that fuel lines, or a high-line with supplies can be transferred between ships. Obviously, the two ships who are connected are severely restricted in their maneuverability. They even have right of way over ships under sail.


Well, we are tooling along when the Captain of our Destroyer calls the signal bridge to observe a radar contact that was many miles away and on a collision course. Through the mid-day haze, the signalmen could just barely make out the ship, but as it got closer, they realized it was a supertanker. It was still far enough away to to make course adjustments, but it was not answering calls from us or the supply ship we were attached to. It must have been 10 minutes they were trying to hail that tanker and all they got was silence.


Well, to do an emergency break away from a connected replenishment takes a little bit of time. Our captains were getting to the point where they had to make a decision to do the break away. The tanker was getting closer and closer and was now clearly visible, maybe less than 5 miles away. Finally the order was given to do the emergency break away.



One of the things that happens is that the supplying ship blows its horn in a prescribed number of blows (I can't remember the number). This is to alert all surrounding vessels, as well as the supplied vessel that an emergency break away is underway. The supply ship blew it's horn and started the emergency break away procedures. Well, wouldn't you know it, the tanker, about a minute later began making a turn to avoid us and only after executing the turn, responded to the frantic radio calls that were still being made even as we were conducting our emergency break away.


Lesson here is, if two United States Naval ships can have these kinds of problems while doing perhaps the most maneuvering restrictive operation you can do at sea, think of what can happen to a tiny sailboat.
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
Yes, this is a good lesson for all of us small boat sailors!
John Richard
John Richard - 4 years ago
The extent of his knowledge is incredible. This was an invaluable presentation. Thanks.
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
Agree, Adam is an awesome Master, and friend!
circum navigation
circum navigation - 4 years ago
Excellent.
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
TKS!
Pete Marsh
Pete Marsh - 4 years ago
Thanks for the eye opener.
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
You are welcome Pete!
Robert Crain
Robert Crain - 4 years ago
I love the comment have plans for all potential disasters and practice. It needs to be 2nd nature and there will not be enough time to rethink what needs to be done. Also I always think as I get older, what is the consequences of my action or inaction. Are the consequences acceptable?
etikkboksen
etikkboksen - 4 years ago
This was super interesting. Thank you so much for sharing.
Sailing Aquarius Around The World
Sailing Aquarius Around The World - 4 years ago
:) You are welcome!

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