01 June, 07 – 23.48
24 hr progress: 28.8 Nautical Miles (1 nm = 1.85 km)
Distance left to Antigua (straight line): 301 Nautical Miles ( 556 km)
Distance completed: 3068 NM (5675 km)
Wave height: 12-15 ft, Winds: 20 knots SE, Bearing: 280-310 degrees.
(NOTE: I had a storm warning this morning. I am awaiting confirmation. The hurricane season has started and the first storm of the season, tropical storm Barry is forming in the SE of the Gulf of Mexico. The weather where I am is a bit rough but currently I'm ok. Just a massive swell. A bit hard to control the boat.)
A busy and stressful day trying trying to steer south and avoiding tankers. Over the past 24, the shipping traffic has increased dramatically. I am currently crossing 3 shipping lanes,
Trinidad – Gibraltar, Trinidad-Bishop Rock and Curacao-Safi.
The radar alarm has been shouting its head off all day and I've been more or less constantly on the VHF radio.
As I type this, the radar alarm is still ringing. I've been trying to contact a tanker for the past 2 hrs, but I've had no response on the VHF. I had contact with the crew of another oil tanker called Great Horizon from Venezuela heading for Spain and they confirmed that there was another ship in the area, about 13 miles NE of me, bearing 230 degr. (heading South). So far, no response on CH16, and the alarm keeps getting louder. About an hour ago, the lights of another tanker that I had been trying to contact for 3 hrs appeared on the horizon. No response to any calls on the VHF from it either. I set off 2 white hand flares and it passed within half a mile, across the bow. Its incredibly irritating when there is absolutely no radio response from a ships crew. Thankfully, most of the other crew on the ships that I've passed have been professional. This evening, another tanker called the Symphonic, appeared on the horizon, dead ahead of me. Fortunately, this time I got hold of the Captain on the VHF and they altered course just in time to avoid me. They passed about 400 meters off starboard!
I've been quite lucky so far.
Getting run down by a big ships has been my worst fear since I started this row.
The radar alarm goes off each time it detects radar signals emitted by another ship. Unfortunately, its quite confusing as well as a ships radar emits the signals omni directionally (360 degrees), there is no way of knowing which direction the ship is coming from, or if the alarm is from a ship that has just passed me or a new one approaching.
Ships often de-sensitize the radar in order to eliminate radar reflections from smaller things such as waves, floating containers etc. and show reflections from only big objects such as ships. My boat is just 1 meter above the surface and often hidden between waves. So, although I have a radar reflector on board (to amplify the radar signal), most of the passing ships still fail to pick me up on the radar.
Being in a rowing boat also complicates all visual matters. When the boat is between waves, its very hard for ships to visually identify the boat until they are within a mile. Inversely, if a ship gets too close and the if boat gets under the bow of the ship, it may not be visible from the deck of the ship.
In a rowing boat, my visual distance to the horizon is also reduced to 3 miles (it's about 10 miles for a normal ship. As a rule, the higher the eye is above the surface, the longer the distance to the horizon). The average speed of a ship is 15 miles/hour. Which gives me about 15 minutes (from the time I first see it on the horizon till the time we cross paths), to taken any collision avoidance action. And that's without factoring in the time needed by the tanker to alter its course.
So, its a long night ahead. Very exhausted already from rowing all day. Could use some sleep, but will have to stay awake, row and keep watch for a few more hours 'til the alarm subsides. It will be a relief to clear the shipping lanes, hopefully within the next 48 hours. The propellers on 'em tankers don't look very friendly...
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Conditions a bit rough. Tropical Storm Barry is forming to my West
On the VHF
Tanker Symphonic, about 500m off starboard