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The fog of shore

Discussion in 'Ask All Sailors' started by Phil Herring, Jul 9, 2018. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. Phil Herring

    Phil Herring Dethroned Admin

    Joined Mar 25, 1997
    4,395 posts, 286 likes
    US Bainbridge Island
    Theres no polite way to say this. Fog sucks. Even with the best electronics its stressful, potentially dangerous, and requires intense focus.

    Share some of your best fog tales here.


    NotCook and Will Gilmore like this.
  2. datasailor2


    Joined May 17, 2010
    21 posts, 3 likes
    Hunter 1983 - 34'
    US Port of Everett
    I agree, but it is a fact of life here in NW. What really T's me off is the increasing number of large power boaters who pilot their vessels like their cars on our freeways. They don't slow down and have no concern for how close they are to other boats and the impact of their wake. Sorry, guess I am getting a little off topic. I did finally replace my old radar reflector! and I always use my VHF auto fog horn! I also recently started using a free Android app for AIS as my third defense. Still the biggest danger in my mind are the power boaters who don't slow down and rely on radar to avoid collisions. But there nothing spooky-er then the sound of large freighter engines in fog. Tutipalot out, standing by on 16.

    tjar likes this.
  3. Ken Cross

    Ken Cross

    Joined Oct 24, 2010
    1,855 posts, 280 likes
    Hunter 30
    US Everett, WA
    I'm cautious and usually try to wait out the fog, but sometimes you can get caught out there. I do use an AIS app on my phone but I don't have radar. I've been known to call vessel traffic control, turn on lights, and put up sails to try to be seen.

    In our area, the fishing boats are the biggest threat. They GPS their way to their favorite fishing spots without radar and proceed at speed. I suspect they don't know about horns. At least they don't use them and with the motors screaming I doubt they can hear me.


  4. Calif. Ted

    Calif. Ted

    Joined Jun 8, 2004
    2,163 posts, 159 likes
    Catalina 320
    US Dana Point
    I came out of Newport Beach in bright sunshine, just outside the harbor the fog hit like a solid wall, the VHF lit up with boats reporting sudden dense fog. Then I heard the cigarette boats still running full speed around me and thought about my course past LA/Long Beach in dense fog on a Saturday morning. I decided to wait it out and returned to harbor.

  5. Kermit


    Joined Jul 31, 2010
    4,826 posts, 2,025 likes
    Hunter 260
    US Lake Murray Sailing Club, SC
    I’ve been accused of wandering around in a fog.

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  6. tjar


    Joined Aug 8, 2011
    130 posts, 31 likes
    Hunter Legend 35.5
    US Tacoma, WA
    I agree with Datasailor2. We were slowly transiting up Rosario Strait in thick fog relying on GPS, DR, and sounds to avoid traffic and rocks when suddenly a powerboat came out of the fog toward us at a high rate of speed. Although they passed down our side and were probably using radar to navigate, it was still disconcerting.
    We checked in with Seattle Traffic Control as we crossed the traffic lane on the same transit and could hear the Washington State Ferry's fog horn behind us too close for comfort. You can be sure that every one of their horn blasts was answered with one of mine!

  7. Michael Davis

    Michael Davis

    Joined Jan 5, 2017
    812 posts, 359 likes
    Beneteau First 38
    Ca Lyall Harbour Saturna Island
    Bligh Island Marine Park.jpg I prefer to stay docked or on the hook when it gets thick. The concentration required to be at sea takes a lot of energy ( more so as I get older)

  8. Michael Davis

    Michael Davis

    Joined Jan 5, 2017
    812 posts, 359 likes
    Beneteau First 38
    Ca Lyall Harbour Saturna Island
    ....and I thought frogs lived below the fog line.

    Kermit likes this.
  9. Jackdaw


    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    9,652 posts, 2,706 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
    With similar water/shore conditions as Maine, Lake Superior can throw up some wicked fog. Two years ago we were heading up the north channel to the best anchorage on Stockton Island with a group of charter boats. As we beat our way up, a huge fog bank appeared, crossing and covering the entire channel with a thick gray blanket. We turned on the 3G radar and kept at it, having no idea what it was going to be like at Presque Isle Bay. After about a mile of zero viz and sailing in a cottonball, we broke out into blue skies and brilliant sunshine. We sailed for another 2 miles and anchored in the bay. Only one other boat (a local with radar) joined us that day. Everyone else turned around and anchored somewhere on Madeline.

    Lake Fog.jpg

  10. All U Get

    All U Get

    Joined Oct 2, 2008
    2,728 posts, 402 likes
    Pearson/ 530
    US Strafford, NH
    NYC has some interesting fog, we had at least 100 feet of visibility this May as we left Sandy Hook but by the time we got to the Verrazano Bridge it thinned out to 1 mile so we did catch a glimpse of Lady Liberty. Maine has thick fog so I use my can of fog oil to get rid of it. :liar:

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  11. Brian D

    Brian D Moderator

    Joined Feb 17, 2006
    4,186 posts, 812 likes
    Lancer 27PS
    US MCB Camp Pendleton, Ca KF6BL
    Especially when a Catalina 27 pops out of the fog less than 100 yrds behind you.


  12. Will Gilmore

    Will Gilmore

    Joined Oct 19, 2017
    3,480 posts, 1,602 likes
    O'Day 19
    US Littleton, NH
    Growing up in Florida, fog was what I saw wisping up off my back lawn in the early dawn for an hour. It was sailing to Maine where I learned what fog really was. There was debate as to whether the bow lookout yelled which direction to turn or which direction the objects were on and let the helmsman decide which direction to turn. We ran into fog where the bowman was invisible to the helmsman.

    Piloting the Hurricane Island pulling boats was even more interesting.

    - Will (Dragonfly)

  13. capta


    Joined Jun 4, 2009
    2,805 posts, 886 likes
    Pearson 530
    na Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
    Five days and nights in fog so thick I often couldn't see the bow from the pilothouse of an 80' motorsailer, from Shelburne, Nova Scotia to Kingston, Ontario. I parked myself at the radar with charts and the pilot books, and gave courses to the person on the helm. Couldn't see the guys yelling instructions from above us in the locks, buoys, or passing ships. A tiring, difficult and very exciting trip. But if one is raised commercial fishing out of Frisco Bay, fog is something one gets used to and perseveres through.

    Will Gilmore likes this.
  14. Kingjim91


    Joined Jul 6, 2013
    102 posts, 6 likes
    Catalina 30TR
    US Milwaukee
    5D829527-C66F-4019-8DC9-076FE91B157B.jpeg Sometimes, the fog can be beautiful.

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  15. nat55


    Joined Feb 11, 2017
    150 posts, 137 likes
    Gulfstar 1979 Gulfstar 37

    The old lime carrier JENNY PILLSBURY was ghosting slowly along through the Mussel Ridge Channel before a light southeasterly wind bound for Rockland with a cargo of Boston bricks in her hold. As so often happens in these waters the southeast breeze was accompanied by an unwelcome traveler, fog. It wasn’t long before the islands on either hand disappeared into the misty gloom. First Graffam and Hewitts off to starboard and then Spruce Head off to port. Somewhere ahead lay Ash Island and its off-lying ledges, a point that had to be weathered.

    The skipper called for the mate and told him to send the boy aft. When the boy reported to the wheel, the skipper asked if he had ever played baseball.

    “Yes sir, centerfield.”

    “Good boy, good,” said the skipper, “now this is what I want you to do – go below and ask Cook for a peck of potatoes and then come back here.”

    The boy soon returned with a basked full of potatoes. “Son,” said the skipper, “I want you take this basket into the bow and I want you to fire a potato out in front of this schooner as far as you can every minute and listen for the splash – and now, this is the important part, the first time that you don’t hear a splash you face aft and cry out as loud as you can, ‘Cap’n, put the helm down!’ ”

  16. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    1,360 posts, 990 likes
    Alden 38' Challenger yawl
    US Rockport Harbor
    The few times fog has bothered me was in the heavy traffic you might find in busy inlets. With an engine rattling in your ears, the vhf full of frantic voices stepping on each other, "Securite', securite' - roaring engine in the background", plus the sounds of several other engines around us, it's stressful.

    We can almost entirely avoid that these days because of how we sail. Truth is, we don't get as much fog in my sailing area than farther east on the Maine coast. We're nearly into our third decade sailing on the coast of Maine and still don't have radar. It's not a necessity for us so I've happily gone without the complication.

    These days we try to sail in the rare fog we need to travel through. We actually enjoy it, if we're under sail. I can avoid most shipping channels and if around inlets or some traffic, I can usually sail in areas where boat traffic is light.

    Without radar, you're forced to travel at a visually safe speed (even with radar, you should do that as well). And when under sail, you have a keen sense of hearing in the fog on the water. Something you lose entirely when under power.

    Amazingly you can be sailing in a thick fog bank at a speed where you can see another boat under sail, long before there's a danger of collision. All other boats you can hear, miles away, by their engine sounds. Lobster boats amazingly give their location dead upwind, by their smell. Go slow, keep a keen look out, stay away from boat traffic under power.

    In a light to moderate wind, you sail in a dome of visibility, that feels like it moves with the boat.

    Foggy wake (1 of 1).jpg

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  17. SG


    Joined Feb 11, 2017
    1,273 posts, 241 likes
    J/Boat J/160
    US Annapolis
    I'll take a contrarian view, with radar, chart plotters, and not being in a rush -- my biggest fear in fog is i) big powerboats; and, ii) lobster pots.

    I actually enjoy the equivalent of IFR (instrument flight rules). As Tom Young says, if you we can sail, so much the better as long as we're able to sail along slowly enough. That means 7 knots of wind, or less.

    I also readily admit if someone turned off the electronics, the world would change :^))))))

    The advent of a Stiletto roaring out of the fog at 35, or so, knots is something I've seen first hand. The power yachts with AIS makes their surprise appearance less likely. They get a shout from us on the VHF at the slightest question.

    The lobster boats are always startling when they roar around you, but they seem to know we're there and are just screwing with us.

    Generally other sailors aren't an issue, but I've had them appear surprisingly because some don't have much of a return on the radar.

    To me, there is a heightened awareness of being watching, listening, and paying attention to what's going on.

    I know that if you had to make 50 miles in the fog offshore from Nova Scotia towards SW Harbor, one would have a different view of life. But if you have 10 miles to make in waters that you have some sense for, I actually find the experience to be fun.


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  18. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    1,078 posts, 549 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us sturgeon bay, wis
    i'm scared of fog. plain and simple. both on ships or yachts. done too many miles in it. never liked the feeling of the uncertainty. i've been trained on how to go through 'light haze', fog. on the ships if you were under way the term light haze was written in the log. the only time fog was written in the log was at anchor. on yachts i always try and stop if i can.
    really, sailing at night is just as uncertain but i humor myself with false assumptions.

    a ship's fog horn is rough to deal with on board the ship. very unpleasant.

    do not like fog

  19. Will Gilmore

    Will Gilmore

    Joined Oct 19, 2017
    3,480 posts, 1,602 likes
    O'Day 19
    US Littleton, NH
    We were rowing our two pulling boats through a thick fog, up a bay between two islands on the West side of Vinalhaven. We were looking for a pass to port about 4 miles North, marked by a can. I was 14, the designated captain because I knew how to DR navigate. Our watch officers laid back and let the mistakes or successes happen. In the fog, I needed to know how fast we were going and I asked Bill, our senoir officer, how that might be accomplished? I told him, I had no experience with crew rowing and no idea how fast we might be going. He told me how to time the wake bubbles from bow to stern to calculate speed through the water. The tide was going out so we were not making the speed indicated by our travel through the water.
    I set our time and watched the progress through the water. 12 kids were rowing, I was at the tiller and one kid was in the bow. There were two watch officers on board. We couldn't see the islands to either side of us. I started to feel impatient and anxious when I thought we should have found the can. I told the watch officer that we should be at the can. Bill said, to give it a little more time. He didn't think we were making the speed I thought we were. I went back to watching the compass and 20 minutes later I called a stop. I was convinced we had passed the can. Bill didn't agree. I looked at the chart. North of the can was a small anchorage, there was a sailboat anchored just barely visible through the fog. Bill explained that one sailboat at anchor did not make an anchorage. I looked at the chart again. Bottom depth! The bowman reported 12'. The anchorage was between 8' and 15'. Bill insisted that wasn't enough to know for sure. I said, pointing NE, just a few yards more and we should see land. Bill said there was another way to tell. We didn't have any potatoes but we had an air horn. "Sound the horn and if there is land there, you should hear the echo." There was an echo.
    We turned about, 180 deg. and rowed for twenty minutes and ran three feet to the East of the can we were looking for. It was a good thing, because the tide running through that pass had that can under water half the time.
    We turned West and rowed out into Penobscot Bay, looking for a nun out in the middle of nowhere. Just where I told Bill we should be near the nun, there it was. It was like GPS, GP- what? We had a compass in a box, paper charts, a watch and ssb radio. Oh, and an air horn and a lead plumb.
    I was very proud of myself and excited that I'd learned to judge the speed by our wake, identify location by depth and see land with sound, all in one foggy trip.

    - Will (Dragonfly)

  20. Rick D

    Rick D

    Joined Jun 14, 2008
    6,626 posts, 183 likes
    Hunter Legend 40.5
    US Long Beach, Shoreline Marina, CA
    Of course, lots of fog stories over a lifetime of sailing. One had the fog dropping like an anvil on a warm, clear, summer day sail with a couple of friends in SoCal's Santa Monica Bay. I had just installed a Loran on my 32 and had not tried it at all for "real" navigation. Anyhow, I got out the chart, put in the waypoint for between the breakwaters, noted the depth contour back in and followed the depth and compass heading carefully. Suddenly, a 35-ish power boat crossed just in front of me at about 90 degrees. I could see the guy with his arm around a bikini-clad gal. It was a real concern to me because either he was heading to the beach or I was way off where I should have been going. And, he had a radar scanner happily spinning around. So, I convinced myself that following the depth contour would at least keep me off the sand. About 30 minutes later, I found myself at the breakwater right about where I should have been. The power boat? Well, yes, he did find the beach.

    Will Gilmore likes this.

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