Poor Seamanship or Just Stupidity?

Why anyone would do this is beyond me.  Look closely, there’s a sailboat sailing across the bow of an underway US Navy ship.

This . is . not . funny!

This . is . not . funny!

This particular ship, while not an aircraft carrier, carries six Harrier Jets, dozens of helicopters, LCU’s (landing craft), a LCAC (landing craft air cushion) plus a full marine city below decks, complete with tanks, armored carriers and everything necessary to set up a Marine base.  It’s a big ship and not easily maneuverable or stoppable for that matter.

This was during a US Navy Family Cruise, just before the ship left for an extended deployment overseas, in this case to the Middle East.  We happened to be visiting on the bridge because our son was the Officer of the Deck, which means he’s in charge of the ship while the Captain and XO are not on the bridge.

A rogue sailboat creates a problem.

A rogue sailboat creates a problem.

He tried contacting the sailboat  multiple times via VHF and loud hailer.  No answer, no answer, no answer.    Eventually he had to make the decision to alter course to avoid any possible conflict with the sailboat, which caused a flurry of calls from the Captain – WHY is the ship altering course?

So why didn’t the sailboat answer the VHF calls from the ship?  Because it was a singlehander and he was sitting on the bow pulpit as his sailboat crossed way too close in front of the ship.  No one aboard the warship was amused and the situation could have been disastrous.  The ship could not have stopped to avoid the sailboat so altered course instead.

Why?  What purpose did this serve?  The action was illegal:  he was closer than the required 100 yards away from the ship.  It was foolhardy and stupid.  Do everyone a favor and stay away from US Navy ships and other military craft.

Personally, I will never understand why anyone would want to risk their lives and create an incident like this.  Poor seamanship, definitely.  Poor judgement, definitely.  NOT amused.  🙁


  1. Keith Davie says:

    Ignorance, arrogance, idiocy… Take your pick, could be any or all of the above. I share your frustration, though. Even if the sailboat was technically “right” (and there’s not enough info for me to be sure) he or she was definitely exercising poor judgement.

  2. Another possiblity is a disdain for all things military … and yes, those types exist within the sailing, cruising and liveaboard community (perhaps even at a percentage than the general public).

    • Rich — possibly, we’ve all met cruisers as you describe. But still, this is inexcusable – he was risking lives, primarily his own. Maybe he was an ex-OOD & knew how fast the ship was moving and how fast his boat was sailing and calculated the odds, but still….

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