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do you sail in the fog?

Feb 10, 2004
3,359
Hunter 40.5 East Greenwich, RI
Of course I motor, not sail in the fog. That is why God made Radar. Prior to having radar, fog was not so much fun.
 
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Dec 28, 2015
1,023
Laser, Hunter H30 Cherubini Tacoma
Got stuck in it once while approaching the narrows in a Puget Sound with a significant flood. Not fun but won’t be so strenuous with radar now
 
Nov 6, 2006
8,922
Hunter 34 Mandeville Louisiana
I don't like to but I will if I have to.. I don't enjoy it..
 
Sep 20, 2014
1,221
Rob Legg RL24 Chain O'Lakes
Brain or atmosphere?

I had a friend who told about sailing into dense fog. I bird landed on the boat and just hung out with them. Even jumped up on one person's leg. Seemed to have no fear of humans. Once the fog lifted, the bird flew off and that was the end of it.
 

ebsail

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Nov 28, 2010
230
O day 25 Nyack. New York
Don't sail in fog but do motor slowly. Since my boat is small, I almost never stay in major shipping channels. I will cross them at 90 degrees to keep exposure to major shipping at a minimum. My choice is to try to stay in water that's around 7-10 feet so that no really big ships will be there. Also running lights lit and you do need some sort of Chartplotter. If it feels risky, don't go. Stay anchored.
 

Rick D

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Jun 14, 2008
6,940
Hunter Legend 40.5 Shoreline Marina Long Beach CA
I remember one trip back from Marina del Rey to Long Beach very well. It was just myself and my dog. We started out about 0900. The trip involves crossing some tanker lanes & moorings, in and outbound Catalina traffic from King Harbor, going around a peninsula with rock outcroppings, and entering a busy commercial harbor through a narrow channel in a breakwater. It's about a four or five hour trip. Anyhow, about five miles out of a sunny Marina del Rey, the fog hit. I expected it to lift. I had just repaired a jumped belt on the radar scanner, so I was a little concerned. To make a long story less so, the dog and I never saw anything except a ferry boat going slow and blowing its fog horn, until we popped out in our Marina with blue skies. During that time, I had my eyes on the radar, scanning in and out, but keeping it in pretty tight and checking the chartplotter carefully for position. There were a lot of targets, but I didn't see any of them. It was a bit disconcerting going through the breakwater entrance without seeing it and them navigating around the small fishing skiffs near the breakwater which didn't show on the radar. I had between 50 feet and 150 feet for the whole trip. The good news is the radar stayed on!
P.S. this was before AIS.
 
Oct 22, 2014
13,955
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
I RESPECT FOG. Even so, my worse experience occurred in the fog. :yikes:

Sailing in fog is not usual. Drifting maybe. When fog sits on the water there is usually very little wind.

When the sails are out, there is little noise. That helps to listen. Ears are a good tool for fog.

Radar is a valuable tool. It can often tell you the blips are coming towards you for not. The big blob is either an island or a very big ship. You need to be able to read the signs.

The new VHF radio has helped manage one of the details. I no longer have to check my watch and ring the bell every 2 minutes. I set the VHF radio to PA/FOG. It squawks a horn every 2 minutes. Very handy.

I now keep a blaster horn next to me in the cockpit. I listen to the sound, and monitor the radar. At the very inkling of another boat I pickup the Air Horn and get ready to BLAST....
 
Dec 14, 2003
1,245
Hunter 34 Lake of Two Mountains, QC, Can
I frequently sail singlehanded on the Lower St-Lawrence river. An area prone to dense fog because of the very low water temperature. Not unusual to be wearing several layers of clothing while at sea and seeing people wearing short and T-shirts when getting to a harbor. Like most, I do not take off when foggy. I had radar for about 10 years, but when it quitted, I did not replace it, relying on AIS, which is connected to my chartplotter. August 17, 2019 I had left Ste-Anne-des-Monts at 05:45 under a beautiful sunrise, headed for Matane, a distance of about 55 nautical miles. No wind so I am motoring, and averaging well close to 8 knots with the tide pushing me up river. Because of tide swing, I know I'm looking at 10 to 12 hours before reaching destination..

About 11:00 sun disappears and fog moves in. I am about 4 & 1/2 nm from shore, in flat calm water, and I have just a few hundred feet of visibility but I keep my course and speed since I had not seen any traffic all morning. I do change the scale on the chartplotter so I can spot any ship way ahead of time.

At precisely noon, AIS shows a ship on the charplotter screen. Quick highlight indentifies it as the CTMA Voyageur, a cruise ship that plies the St.Lawrence headed for the Magdalen Islands. Lo and behold she's on the exact opposite course of Sacripant and coming at me at 18 knots !!! At that point, my GPS speed is 6,6 kn !

First pic shows the ship (taken from the internet) and what I see. I estimate she's at 7 miles. Since I had the ship's name, I raised her up on the VHF. The pilot was extremely courteous, thanking me for the call, saying he had us on his radar, adding that we would probably be meeting a little too close for my comfort. To my dismay he did not ask me to get out of the way, but rather suggested that we both change our course 10 degrees to starboard, thus meeting port to port about 1/4 of a mile. I thanked him and took the immediate 10 degrees. Probably a little more to compensate for the tidal current pushing me towards her.

2nd pic show what I see minute by minute with distance given by AIS. Bottom right picture is on port, exactly 1/4 of a mile from her port side !

Pilot called me back and told me there was no other ship front or back of me within several miles, thanking me again and even going to the point of saying that it was nice to see pleasure craft who could operate under these conditions and have safety in mind. I thanked him again and told him that frankly I didn't care for those conditions. He laughed and said he did not either. Wished me a Bon Voyage and I soon lost her in the fog behind me.

Sorry for the lenghty story, but that meeting was really the highlight of my day and brings a smile to my face evrytime I think about it
 

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Oct 1, 2007
1,602
Hunter 44DS Pt. Judith
We often sailed in the fog, and powered, back before we retired. We were forced into doing so when we needed to be back home for work. Largely uneventful. Radar, radio, stay away from shipping lanes when possible. Now we never sail or power in fog unless we are caught out when it rolls in, but we work to avoid that circumstance. A man only gets so many in a lifetime.......good breaks that is.
 
Dec 25, 2000
4,672
Hunter Passage 42 Shelter Bay, WA
Sailed across Georgia Strait in soup fog several years ago from Ganges to Semi-ah-moo. Prefer it as opposed to motoring. You can hear the boats around you. No need for radar, just be alert, send your signals at regular intervals. Thank goodness for GPS to keep you on course. Motored in soup fog a number of times over the years; no worries.
 
Feb 8, 2014
1,259
Columbia 36 Muskegon
Around here we rarely get fog and wind together, so mostly we motor if there's fog. And I have radar, so it's not a huge deal. I don't like it, but I do it. On the dinner boats and research vessels I've run, fog is not an excuse to cancel, so we run regardless. Again, I don't like it, but have to go anyway.
 
Oct 22, 2014
13,955
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
Great story @Claude L.-Auger. There is a moral in there somewhere. Something about being alert and reaching out to the other Captain who is likely to be as concerned as you.
Thank you for sharing.
 

RoyS

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Jun 3, 2012
865
Hunter 33 Steamboat Wharf, Hull, MA
When caught in dense fog, my wife and I proceed as follows: We motor slowly. I watch the chart plotter and the radar at the helm. My wife looks out for those ridiculous lobster pots. As others mentioned above, we keep an air horn ready and have needed it! The dog doesn't help at all and hates the air horn. We have a bell, but it is useless as a defense against loud power boats. Fog horn/hailer is on the list. Wish I could find an air powered fog horn that would not hurt the dog's ears.
 
Jul 27, 2011
4,240
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
It kinda depends on the circumstances: visibility and where I am, etc. If I’m already sailing the boat, say, across the San Pedro Channel and fog descends, I’d keep sailing. Depending on visibility, I might sail into Alamitos Bay the way I normally would while checking the radar (monitor is below) every few minutes. Would I leave the slip to go out sailing, or to motor, in dense fog inside Long Beach Harbor where there are bruisers lying at anchor, a seawall, a few oil islands, and other boats around—NO; not without good reason. But I have left the slip under power in fog, even dense fog, where I could not see one channel marker to the next, to go out to sea. Whether or not I hoist the sails when out depends on visibility and wind direction relative to destination. Around a quarter mile visibility is enough; zero is not enough!! My experiences in fog are relatively few and relatively brief (fog lifts).

As to “techniques”, I do have a fog hailer and horn aboard and use it whenever in fog. It sounds off every 2 minutes for 4 sec, but as RoyS notes, I doubt it’s much defense against power boats roaring about. The radar rests on the three-to six-mile range setting, unless close in near harbor or approaching a target. I pay attention to my depth whenever in water shallow enough to show the sounder a bottom. Also, of course, to the GPS plotter. The greater risk is being hit versus hitting something, IMHO. If you’re out there in fog, whether powering or sailing, those risks are about the same.
 
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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
2,503
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
I'm comfortable sailing in the fog, on my own terms:

Motor off, I can't hear a bloody thing out there with a motor running. Go slowly.

If I get nervous - go more slowly.

Traffic: sail where they ain't.

If it still doesn't feel right, I don't go.

Enjoy the peace, solitude and escape only a Maine fog can give.

Foggy wake (1 of 1).jpg
 

WayneH

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Jan 22, 2008
813
Tartan 37 Pensacola Shipyard, FL
Went sailing one fine morning in my AMF Sunbird. Weekday and out of the traffic areas. I had to look over the stern to make sure I was moving. Little did I know that stupidity was afoot.

I started seeing flashing lights to the north of my location. Then I heard the thunder. Run for shore in 2-3 knot winds. Too far out to beat the cold front so I anchored. The cuddy cabin is great for riding out the gust front. But not so much fun when solid water goes past the ports.

Once the winds calmed down, I headed for the ramp. After getting the boat ready for the road in the driving rain with shorts and a t-shirt on, it took about 15 minutes sitting in the truck to warm up enough to drive off. 40+ years later, I STILL avoid sailing in the fog.