Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Notices to Mariners

I am not at all certain whether I have just grown more attentive with age, or if the things I need to worry about at sea along the U.S. coast have gotten more complicated through the years. When I first started serious boating in the early 1990's, I don't recall worrying about anything. Maybe it's just that there was not much of an internet in the early 1990's. Now, I don't embark on any trips without reading up on what are called the Local Notices to Mariners. 

The Coast Guard publishes these notices weekly for each of its districts. I subscribe to the email notifications of these notices for District 7 covering Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, and for District 5 from South Carolina to New Jersey. And I can look up any other district where I might travel. 

Reading these notices can save many headaches. For example, if you planned to pass through a drawbridge or lock, it would be nice to know in advance if it was closed for maintenance. Or, as happened to me bringing Division Belle south when I first bought her, it would be nice to know in advance of live fire military exercises closing the Intracoastal Waterway for hours at a time (I didn't read this one in advance).

So, anticipating a trip from Bimini to Florida Thursday and up the coast over the next week or so, I have been reading the District 7 notices tonight. There are some that are helpful and some that seem downright weird.

For example, here is a weird one about a "wave glider" the size of a surfboard:
"ATLANTIC OCEAN- EAST COAST- OFFSHORE:  SURFACE WAVE GLIDER DATA COLLECTION
ThayerMahan, Inc . will be transecting one autonomous, unmanned maritime vehicle (Wave Glider-WG) from approximately 100NM east of Port Canaveral, FL to about 100NM east of Cape May, NJ. The transit will commence on or about May 27, 2020 and is expected to terminate on or about August 27, 2020.  Operations will run 24/7 and  consist of scientific ocean data collection.  The Wave Glider carries no fuel, lubricants or hydrocarbon. It  is wave powered and remotely attended from the ThayerMahan Operations Center, moving at speeds of about 1kt, and is designed to automatically give way if encountered by a vessel transmitting AIS. It is approximately 6.5' x 2' (surfboard size), copper in color, with a contact plaque and mast extending 3' above the water surface.  Mariners are advised to requested to transit the area with caution and to remain a safe distance from the wave glider.  Further information contact the ThayerMahan Operations center at (860) 969-3171." We'll be watching for it and we do transmit AIS signals, but this little gadget could easily be run over somewhere

Here's another that covers the area to the south of the Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) ship channel:
"ATLANTIC OCEAN - FLORIDA  - OFFSHORE FORT LAUDERDALE: USN OPERATIONS ERMA-DERMA
The United States Navy, South Florida Ocean Measurement Facility (SFOMF) will be conducting operations in the water immediately south and east of the Port Everglades inlet. The operations are scheduled within a period beginning at 6:00 a.m. on June 23, 2020 through 9:00 p.m. on  July 3, 2020. A naval vessel will be conducting maneuvers between ¾NM to 4NM offshore, and from ½NM south of the Port Everglades inlet to 2.5NM south of the Dania Beach Pier. The vessel will be restricted in maneuverability and these operations are considered a hazard to navigation. All traffic must remain clear of the area bounded by the coordinates below for the duration of the operations. Local law enforcement and Tow Boat US small craft will provide range security and range clearance for the naval vessel during these operations. Ships entering Port Everglades are requested to enter from the northeast thereby avoiding the waters south of the channel. To allow for the safe operation of the naval vessel, all maritime traffic transiting the area is requested to stay 5NM east of Port Everglades or inshore of the Barracuda Reef mooring buoys. Any concerned vessels may contact U.S. Navy Fort Lauderdale on VHF-FM Channel 16."
"SFOMF OPAREA:

NW Corner: 26-05-03.000 N / 080-05-42.000 W NE Corner: 26-05-03.000 N / 080-02-04.200 W SE Corner: 26-00-57.000 N / 080-02-25.200 W SW Corner: 26-00-57.000 N / 080-06-03.600 W"
We'll have to keep an eye out for this one.

Most of these things, if they are of concern, will be broadcasting warnings on marine VHF channel 16, alerting all ships in the area. But it helps a great deal to be aware of them in advance.

Oddly, the District 5 but not the District 7 current notices contain reporting requirements for ships relating to the Coronavirus. Both sick crew members and deaths are required to be reported several days prior to entering any port, and sick crew members will be basically required to stay onboard.

So, perhaps I was blissfully unaware 30 years ago. But I'm doing my best to pay attention now.

Winds are forecast to be light from the southeast Thursday with seas less than one foot. If the boat is in good shape, we should make it to Florida Thursday night after our flight to Bimini tomorrow.

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