A Miss
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A Miss

A Miss

A Miss

They say a miss is as good as a mile. A miss in this case amounts to 0.4 miles. In fog no less. ‘They’ we’re obviously not sailors of small vessels.

The AIS alarm sounded letting me know that there was somebody nearby. Nearby is usually no cause for concern but a Closest Point of Approach (CPA) of 0.1 miles with the other vessel doing 18 knots is. 18 knots implies big.

I waited to see if they were going to alter to avoid. No change. With less than 15 miles separation and a closure rate implying that we would be on top of each other in less than about 40 minutes, I called.

“Yes, yes. I have you on AIS. Will go astern of you. Thank you.” was the short, accented reply. After a very uncomfortable 15 minutes or so, they altered to port a couple of degrees. Just enough to clear my stern by an oceanic whisker.

All well and good you might say. No harm, no foul you might say. A miss is as good as a mile you might say. I would say you’re wrong.

The problem lies in the assumption that everything will continue as it is right now. That nothing will go wrong. That all will unfold exactly as it should and always has. In other words, a perfect world.

What would have happened had I slowed down just a fraction at the last minute, the result of a change in the wind? Or steering failed. Or a halyard breaks? Or a sail tears? Or I have to avoid something in the water? Or the prop picks something up? Or. Or. Or.

Instead of avoiding by a hair’s breadth and therefore allowing for nothing, avoid by a wider margin, say a whole 1.5 miles, and allow for anything.

I felt stocked and pillared watching them go by. I waved a friendly hello as they passed but I suppose elephants ignore gnats.

My brother’s definition of a superior pilot found its way to my lips and I whispered it aloud at the disappearing stern of CSAV Trancura.

The superior pilot is that pilot who uses his superior judgement to avoid those situations that neccessitate the use of his superior skills. 

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