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Playing Chicken with Ships

Every Bay sailor knows that commercial ships have right-of-way and that you never want to tempt fate by crossing their bows, right? Arnstein Mustad found out differently on July 25 when he recorded a sailboat boldly going where no boat should ever go.

"We were heading into the Bay after a passage up the coast when I shot this," said Mustad, a delivery skipper and sailing instructor with many thousands of miles under his keel. "The skipper of the sailboat tried to hail the ship on channel 16 so I informed him that it only monitored channels 13 and 14 while in the Bay. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway as the ship could have done nothing to alter course. The ship never made a sound signal, which means either they didn’t see the sailboat crossing their bow or that it was so dangerously close they didn’t want to spook the skipper into a panic U-turn.

"Sailors need to remember that ships in the deep water channel make abrupt turns — 30-40 degrees — at Harding Rock buoy for the Golden Gate bridge. The sailboat skipper now understands that perfectly well."

This sailboat’s crew was infinitely more lucky those aboard Atalanta, which was dismasted during this month’s Cowes Race Week in an eerily similar encounter. Please keep a sharp eye out when you’re on the water and never play chicken with a ship — they play for keeps.

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