Monday, April 9, 2012

Navigation Hazards

We had planned out first overnight anchor-out trip last weekend.  

There are some lessons to be learned here for me.

I have a call into the construction crew for the 520 Bridge replacement project to discuss their nautical warning and safety measures around this project.  I also have an observation about boater doucebaggery.

This project entails placing new mooring anchors next to the existing bridge, then floating new bridge sections into place.  The project should complete in 2014.  They have also changed the opening rules for the center span.  I read the site and didn't see anything specific about blocked channels.  

We were headed out of Lake Union towards Andrews Bay for an overnight on the hook and to check out our new Ultra anchor.

This was the intended route.

As we approached the east end of 520, there were indeed two large barges just west of the channel.  We read all the signs.  None of them seemed relevant to us.

I approached a few hundred yards north of the barges and determined that the channel seemed open.

I did note what seemed to be to be a large number than usual of the "no wake" type of notification bouys in the channel.  (that would be a clue)

I approached the east channel entrance, noting the lake level at 64 feet at the east side of the channel.  I determined we had bridge clearance and proceeded at about 4kts.

There was a small motor boat stopped directly in the channel under the bridge.  I could not determine what they were doing and they were not moving.  I sounded five quick blasts on my horn, letting them know they were a hazard to my transiting the channel.  They moved out of the channel and back north into the lake.

We then proceeded into the channel, only to find the "no wake" bouys were indeed, "Channel Blocked" bouys.

Fortunately, I was able to back Brigadoon away from the bouys, even though she drifted into one of them a little and were blown pretty close to the bridge towers by the north wind.  We were able to get out of the channel and return to north into the lake.  

As we left, we checked again and saw no indication whatsoever on the barges that warned that the channel was blocked.  In other words, you have be right on top of what you think are "no wake" bouys before you see they are "channel blocked" bouys.

Lessons learned (that means, "my fault"):

Lesson 1: It did not occur to me to do some research to see if there were any navigation issues surrounding this project.  I figured that I'd check it out and assess the situation when I arrived -- wait for Lesson 2 in a bit.
Lesson 2: I should have used my binoculars to assess the situation before I entered it.
Lesson 3: I ensured I told another approaching sailboat that they channel was marked as blocked.
Lesson 4: Other sailors may not do so, as the motorboat demonstrated.

Like I said, I have a call into the construction office for this project.  It is my opinion that they do not have the channel marked properly.  I'll see if they are willing to do a little more so a boat will not be placed in a hazardous situation, trying to back out of the somewhat narrow channel.

So, next trip south, I'm making them open the 520 bridge for little ol' me.