Are you afraid of the fog?

Discussion in 'Ask All Sailors' started by Ken Cross, Oct 20, 2013. Add this thread to a FAQ

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  1. Ken Cross

    Ken Cross

    Joined Oct 24, 2010
    1,983 posts, 328 likes
    Hunter 30
    US Everett, WA
    I love to fish and lately we have been pretty well fogged in. Where we live there is relatively little commercial traffic. We may have a ship a week or less (Navy or commercial) and a couple of tugs a day, but that's about it. I don't have radar (but I do have a radar reflector, GPS charting, working compass and know how to use it.) Naturally when there is fog we can't usually sail because there is no wind, so it's hard to hear other boats because of the engine noise.

    Maybe I'm a fool, but I occasionally go out into the fog anyway depending on how thick it is.
    I usually don't go if visibility is less than 1/4 mile or so. I'd still like to get out again before the silver salmon are gone for the year.

    My question: when do you stay home because of visibility.

    Ken
     


  2. Rick D

    Rick D

    Joined Jun 14, 2008
    6,729 posts, 228 likes
    Hunter Legend 40.5
    US Long Beach, Shoreline Marina, CA
    Fog in SoCal tends to lift between mid-morning and noon. Over the years, I have sailed in plenty of fog without radar or GPS's. I would usually give myself a quarter mile cut off. Once I had to navigate back to my slip by identifying the outlines of boats on end-ties as I motored down the channel. We waited for that fog to lift before trying again. In open water, it never bothered me much except in shipping lanes where it bothered me a lot. About 20 years ago I got radar. That did a lot to alleviate angst from fog and night crossings. I still will wait if it's just a couple of hundred feet visibility. AIS and radar, plus chart plotters have made the whole game a bit less intense, but it can still cause a pucker.
    Recently, I had a 30 mile trip in what was clear to start with. I ran into fog about five miles out but it was about a quarter mile. However, it soon closed in to a hundred to two feet. I kept expecting it to lift but in never did. Still, it wasn't too bad. Buoys were spotted on radar and I had time to pass within a couple of boat lengths. Things got interesting near L.A. Harbor with shipping, ferries and pleasure craft. The AIS is below, so I made some fast trips to check it out. It didn't show most pleasure boats or fishing boats though and they came out of the fog about 80 knots (at least it seemed like it). I entered the breakwater without ever seeing it or the light. I could hear the horn but I had a tough time directionally. Once in, I figured I would travel the couple of miles to Long Beach by hugging the breakwater. I turned up and could see it at about 150 feet. I didn't count on the fishing skiffs anchored near the wall and the other boats following the same logic, so I slowed down to about three and a half knots until I got near my harbor.
    What made it more interesting is that my radar had failed on a prior trip and I did a wild a** guess repair. Fortunately it held up. It would have been way too interesting if it had failed. I was also singlehanding (not counting the dog). Not sure what help crew would have been anyway. I still have a lot of respect for poor visibility.
     


  3. Stu Jackson

    Stu Jackson

    Joined Feb 26, 2004
    20,609 posts, 986 likes
    Catalina 34
    224 CA Maple Bay, BC, Canada
    In all these "fog" discussions, it would really help to define "fog", just as Rick has done.

    San Francisco and parts of Southern California ("June gloom") are reputed to have tons of fog. The reality is that that "fog" is usually no lower than 800 to 1500 feet with good if not unlimited visibility below it. San Francisco gets "down on the deck" fog a few times a year, most usually in November & December, and it is NOT the summertime higher level fog associated with the area in song & story.

    Ken, yes, that "down on the deck" fog is to be feared with very good reason. "Only a tug or two a day" can mess your boat up big time if you don't know where they are and are going and when they will be there.

    In my 25+ years sailing here, I was only out in those conditions twice. Once was when returning from a trip to Napa, crossing the Slot (middle of the Bay) at 0900. It was clear north of the Slot and south of it, but for two miles it was nerve wracking. I stayed east of the red buoys that mark the eastern side of the N/S ferry channel, and listened to VTS (CH14) on the VHF so I knew where the big guys were. The fishermen were something else.

    The other time was later in a day, the fog was lifting and I was able to sail around the edges.

    I, too, know how to use the tools.

    I choose not to endanger myself going out in that soup.

    Maine Sail has done a few discussions about this issue with photos. The motoryacht that came up his stern at 20 knots is startling.

    It's not only YOU, it's what ELSE may be out there, and not so diligent, prepared or smart.

    Good question.
     


  4. Chief RA

    Chief RA

    Joined Nov 26, 2012
    2,304 posts, 97 likes
    Catalina 250
    US Bodega Bay CA
    I hate the dense stuff and yes, it does tend to scare me. It seems as if you will never get to your destination in it. I rode out 4 typhoons on the USS Kidd DD 661 and that scared the hell out of me! (50' swells) Chief
     


  5. shemandr

    shemandr

    Joined Jan 1, 2006
    4,034 posts, 957 likes
    Marblehead Skiff 14'
    US Greenport, NY
    A professional ferry driver I know hates GPS. It allows recreational boaters go out in conditions in which they shouldn't and increases the danger for those who have to be out there.
    I won't leave to enter LI Sound in dense fog with or without GPS, Radar and/or AIS. It isn't safe under almost any circumstance. If you are paying close attention to your radar, you cannot be keeping a watch. When I used to try this, I could pretty well spot vessels approaching on the radar, and pick them out of the fog (Usually going way too fast), but there would always be some on radar that I would never see, and some I saw but never detected on the radar. And, it was exhausting in terms of concentration. Not safe.
    If you get caught in it despite attempts not to, then those tools will help. But the first best thing is not to operate in unsafe conditions. You need only have the experience of hearing a large vessel's engines and not be able to locate it to know it's not safe.
     


  6. stephen Penny

    stephen Penny

    Joined Nov 8, 2009
    537 posts, 1 likes
    Hunter 386LE
    US San Fancisco
    I would not go out in fog and night without radar, gps, back-up portable gps, chart, compass, depth gauge, radar reflector and backup hand held vhf/gps. I have been in these conditions on trips along the coast and in the bay but not without them.
     


  7. Maine Sail

    Maine Sail Moderator

    Joined Feb 6, 1998
    10,990 posts, 774 likes
    Canadian Sailcraft 36T
    US Casco Bay, ME
    Amen, I am not at all afraid of fog. I am however afraid of the morons who would never ever be out in the fog if it were not for their GPS.. It is NOT the fog I am afraid of but I am afraid of morons...:D

    Here's my take... If you did not venture out in the fog BEFORE electronics such as GPS, radar and AIS you have no business being out there solely because of them...Hard to believe, I know, but many of us navigated the foggy Maine coast long before even Loran let alone GPS and I can assure you there were no morons out in the fog back then, like there are today....

    Sorry for the rant but in Maine if you don't go out in the fog you will have a very short season. I just wish more folks did it safely...

    True story that happened this summer.. Guy motors by and asks why our boat sounded like a light house when entering the harbor...... "Ah, it's a fog signal which is required by the COLREGS in restricted visibility."..... I am certain the next question would have been; "COLREGS..?" But he just shrugged and motored off...
     


  8. justsomeguy

    justsomeguy

    Joined Feb 20, 2011
    6,979 posts, 1,233 likes
    Island Packet 35
    US Tucson, AZ/San Carlos, MX
    I was wondering when the foghorn would get mentioned. ;)
     


  9. higgs

    higgs

    Joined Aug 24, 2005
    3,420 posts, 13 likes
    Nassau 34
    US Olcott, NY
    I am uncomfortable in fog and stay very alert. I have navigated very thick fog with only a depth sounder and compass, which along a coast, is all you really need. GPS certainly helps now days. I usually do not allow it to stop me when cruising (especially with GPS), but avoid it for day sails.
     


  10. chuckwayne

    chuckwayne

    Joined Mar 20, 2004
    1,532 posts, 62 likes
    Hunter 356 and 216
    US Portland, ME
    Ditto! we're very careful in fog, use our radar and foghorn carefully. A couple of years ago we were leading a flotilla downeast and another blip, moving fast, appeared on the radar. I warned the flotilla, and kept watch - suddenly a 50 foot or so Hinckley popped out of the fog maybe 50 ft abeam of us, the person at the helm was focused on the gps and not even looking around - she jumped when our foghorn went off! suddenly, 2 guys came up from below and took over the helm. Obviously, they were watching the radar.
     


  11. Steve Dion

    Steve Dion

    Joined Dec 2, 1999
    15,184 posts, 14 likes
    Hunter Vision-36
    US Rio Vista, CA.
    We were in the soup this morning in SF Bay. The visability was about 200 yds. Yes it is scary.
     


  12. Benny17441

    Benny17441

    Joined May 24, 2004
    5,806 posts, 436 likes
    CC 30
    US South Florida
    Maine Sail took the words out of my mouth. Its the morons I'm afraid of.
     


  13. Mark Maulden

    Mark Maulden

    Joined Jan 25, 2011
    1,933 posts, 228 likes
    S2 11.0A
    US Anacortes, WA
    We went from Anacortes to Deer harbor (Orcas Is) about a month ago. Usually Rosario strait is fogged in and you expect it. Once you clear Thatcher pass its usually gone and it was. Until.... we were opposite Spencer spit and it went to ground fog immediately. And I mean instantly... I remember I had that happen when flying one time a long time ago and it wasn't fun. We have plotter/radar/sounders/horn etc. So, we stayed wide to stay out of the ferry traffic and it worked well. The other thing I use (even in good weather) is my cell phone for AIS to see where the ferries and anybody else that transmits are. This worked out really well as I don't have a regular AIS (yet) but you need to be in cell range (obviously). You might think about that if you're out and have a smart phone. You can at least keep track of commercial traffic. Also, monitor Seattle traffic AND talk to them if necessary. Even to tell them where you are and what you're doing. Be careful devoting to much attention to electronics as you can lose situational awareness. Keep track of that compass!!!! One thing I always do before entering a fog bank is take a compass reading as I go in.....
     


  14. captnron

    captnron

    Joined Jan 6, 2010
    1,520 posts, 70 likes
    Catalina 30 Mark II
    US John's Pass Florida
    Sometimes I wake up foggy in the morning & other times it's bright & sunny.

    Fog, by it's nature can be reason for concern. I once decided to go out in the soup with vis around 50 ft. It was in the daze of Loran & I wanted to see if she were quick/accurate enough . So under the bridge I went, using "Lorain" to find the next marker. After a half hour of frustration, ended back at the bridge. The bridge tender beat me up on this one.

    However in my area in spring & fall we get the sudden "sea fog". Usually it's not much of a concern as I sail mostly during weekdays with little traffic. But, after years of this, for the most part I'm comfortable as I have alot of searoom. It can get thick maybe 50 ft. vis.

    But you guys are right, it's the nuts out there you need to watch out for. Them & the gambling ships. Fog horns ( at 1 minute intervals or more), radio monitoring & keen eyes & ears are needed. Keep the stereo at LOW volume & motor to quickly avoid collision.
    These seafogs are usually short lived & I just stay offshore until they dissipate.

    And, it's a great time for trolling. Kings, Makeral, cuddas, shark, reds etc. etc. etc.

    CR
     


  15. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    1,783 posts, 1,804 likes
    Alden 38' Challenger yawl
    US Rockport Harbor
    But I feel more comfortable sailing in it. To be in the middle of a cluster of boats all under power in a crowded spot, isn't fun.

    It's comforting to be able to hear sounds around the boat. It's amazing what you'll hear in the fog then. We've never had radar aboard our boats but appreciate the Chart plotter, depth sounder, vhf, especially in the fog.

    Some light air sails even in pea soup fog can be very pleasant. Slowing down alone can turn a stressful event in the fog into a pleasant sail.
     


  16. Ross

    Ross

    Joined Jun 15, 2004
    14,693 posts, 11 likes
    Islander/Wayfairer 30 sail number 25
    US Perryville,Md.
    It is no different on the roads! We encounter idiots speeding with no lights.
     


  17. IainB

    IainB

    Joined Apr 14, 2009
    16 posts, 0 likes
    Catalina 30
    Ca Semiahmoo
    I sail out of Semiahmoo which is the most northerly harbour in Washington State. We often are fogged in, (every day for the past 6). I have radar and chart plotter GPS on the boat. Would I venture out of harbour on some of these mornings NO. I am aware of where I am and what I am doing, my worry is the idiots in 14-20 ft run about's out laying or picking up their crab pots. Often with little to no seamanship training, they have a GPS to help them return to the crab pots but often little else on their boats. I only venture out of I am visiting somewhere and need to get back to home port. Then it is slow and sure with constant checking of Radar and GPS and sounding my fog horn as per COLREGS. Oh and my Boat is called Sea Mist-ress as a play on words for the many days of sea mist we encounter in Northern Washington/Southern BC
     


  18. Ken Cross

    Ken Cross

    Joined Oct 24, 2010
    1,983 posts, 328 likes
    Hunter 30
    US Everett, WA
    Thanks everyone. As I said I usually cut it off at 1/4 mile. I am thinking of ground fog. If it gets too thick to see and avoid I don't go. The problem is it can get thicker without warning and that's my concern. The people going faster than conditions warrant is naturally the concern. My route is also designed to avoid other traffic. Ferry lanes or commercial traffic lanes. I simply don't cross without adequate visibility. I was just wondering if I'm chicken because I feel I take a conservative position. My spouse however is uncomfortable if she can't see the shoreline. It's not the shoreline I'm bothered by. It doesn't move.
    Ken
     


  19. drdanj

    drdanj

    Joined Jun 15, 2009
    41 posts, 1 likes
    Catalina 36
    US Ventura
    Best advice for sailing in fog

    Soon after buying our very first boat ever (we were not too bright about things), we went out with nothing but a compass, and not too good at following a reverse course. As happens in our part of So Cal, the fog suddenly set in, 50' visibility. We knew we were close, way closer than we knew.

    Here's the advice: when a surfer emerges from the fog frantically waving his arms -- turn left. Now. We were way behind the jetty, had to come back out and around to get into the harbor.

    Lesson learned.
     


  20. william24424

    william24424

    Joined Jan 25, 2007
    167 posts, 9 likes
    Cal Cal 33-2
    US cape cod
    Fog is unpleasant...

    It furls my headsail, slows my speed, quiets conversations, and creates tension. I take out my trumpet and blow every two minutes, one prolonged two short. I should buy one of those electric horns.. aerosol cans run out of juice...
     

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