Life at the end of the road

November 19, 2012

Two short blasts :-)

Filed under: boats, daily doings, South Shields — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:30 pm

It’s been a while I know but I’ve had neither time no inclination to look at the computer, let alone post and waffle. To be honest I’d not be doing right now were my memory and hand writing better, my mind is elsewhere and the only way I can seem to concentrate is by doing my home work on here. Only two more days at college and the big exam tomorrow, then the most relevant and extremely  useful ‘Maritime Security Course’ Smile This will teach me how wrap barbed wire around the gunwales and charge fire hoses ready to deter Somali pirates Smile Still at least I’ll have another certificate to add to my burgeoning portfolio should I ever need to apply for another job, which I might well have to if I’m away from the wife child and dog any longer.

Not through choice right enough because I actually really enjoy my job, or at least I remember enjoying it once upon a time. No I’ll have to find another job when the wife leaves me and I can’t bear living on my own in the middle of nowhere any longer Sad smile


Still, week nine has begun and by Friday night I should be on Raasay with my son and ‘wee dug’, my wife with her sick father some 200 miles away Sad smile Something that I managed to do in her stead this weekend, thanks once more to being able to hitch a ride to Glasgow with a friend.

My father in law is now in the capable hands of the staff Accord hospice in Paisley which despite its size only has eight beds. That’s just eight beds to serve a population of some 190,000 in Renfrewshire ???

Front view

It does receive some funding, almost 50% in fact from the local NHS trust but even so requires some £5200 a day just to operate. The staff are dedicated, friendly, helpful and understanding, visiting hours are long and flexible with a lovely lounge to retire to if your loved one needs attention. Some of the rooms even have fold down beds for relatives and you can phone them anytime day or night.

It’s not often I ask for money but having spent a good deal of the weekend there I feel they really deserve some help, I’m an emotional wreck and I’ve only been there hours, not day in day out like the caring staff, many of whom are volunteers.

There are many ways to donate but this is what I did,

Make a donation
NEW>>>>>Donate by Text>>>>>> – text ACCORD to 70700 and your full £5 will be donated to ACCORD.

Anyway before I turn once more into a blubbering heap I’d better get on with my homework, which may seem a little random and chaotic to say the least.

Boxing the compass

There are 32 ‘points’ of the compass divided into 360 degrees which means that each point is 11.25 degrees, hence an object at 45 degrees to the right of the sharp end of the ship would be ‘four points off the starboard bow’ and so on.

I can’t imagine we’ll be asked to name all 32 but certainly

sixteen and there associated degrees and reciprocals thereof is a possibility, NNE is 022.5, NE is 045, S 180etc. The reciprocals (that will be the opposite) of which are worked out thus, ‘any course more than 180 subtract 180, any course less than 180 add 180’

Rules of the road

Well that’s kind of like the international highway code of the sea, and unlike the highway where some countries drive on one side and some on the other this is truly global and can be summed up thus.

“if to starboard red appear, tis your duty to keep clear”

The colours referring to the sectors of the navigation lights that all vessels over 7m are required to have, and whilst they may not actually be switched on it is their sectors  that the rules refer too.

It’s a whole lot more complicated than that but if you were a vessel approaching the one in the picture on a collision course anywhere in the top left hand quarter of that picture you would have to give way. Conversely if you were approaching from the right hand side on a collision course then the other vessel would have to give way.

It’s not just good enough to keep out of everyone’s way for if you are the vessel that has priority (the ‘stand on vessel’) then you will be expected to do exactly that ‘hold your course and speed’.  This does not absolve the responsibility of a collision from the vessel with ‘right of way’ for it is always possible that the other vessel has not seen you, but any alterations in course you do make must be large, obvious, preferably to starboard and almost without exception to put you astern of the other vessel.


Well there are dozens but I can’t see us being asked more than the basic ones.

power vessel under 50m

This being a powered vessel under 50m from astern, ahead and forward, port would be as starboard but red. A sailing vessel would be the same bar the mast head light, also known as the ‘steaming light’.

power vessel over 50m

A vessel over 50m would show two mast head lights, one higher than the other.


A trawler engaged in fishing would show the normal ‘power driven’ lights plus one all round green and one all round white.

pilot vessel

A pilot vessel would show all round white over all round red and a fishing vessel engaged in static gear fishing like creels would be the other way around ‘red over white, frying tonight’, ‘white over red, pilot in bed’ Smile

There’s loads more from submarines to sea planes but this is a basic course so I aint going to bother revising them Smile


Or, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, each ship will have at least one of these,

mounted high up and free from obstruction the Epirb, if not removed manually will float free via a ‘hydrostatic release’ and start automatically transmitting on 406Mhz to the satellites in polar orbit.

Distress radio beacons, also known as emergency beacons, PLB, ELT or EPIRB, are tracking transmitters which aid in the detection and location of boats, aircraft, and people in distress. Strictly, they are radiobeacons that interface with worldwide offered service of Cospas-Sarsat, the international satellite system for search and rescue (SAR). When manually activated, or automatically activated upon immersion, such beacons send out a distress signal. The signals are monitored worldwide and the location of the distress is detected by non-geostationary satellites, and can be located by some combination of GPStrilateration and dopplertriangulation.[1]

The basic purpose of a distress radiobeacon is to help rescuers find survivors within the so-called "golden day"[2] (the first 24 hours following a traumatic event) during which the majority of survivors can usually be saved.

Since the inception of Cospas-Sarsat in 1982, distress radiobeacons have assisted in the rescue of over 28,000 people in more than 7,000 distress situations.[3] In 2010 alone, the System provided information which was used to rescue 2,388 persons in 641 distress situations. [4]

System Concept

It can take up to two hours for the signal to be acquired but once it is it is then beamed back to the LUT (Local User Terminal) and relayed to the RCC (Regional Command Centre) where the rescue will be coordinated, the UK’s being in Falmouth. They also broadcast a homing signal on 121.5Mhz which is a civil aviation frequency.


Or Search and Rescue Radar Transponder,

unlike the EPIRB the SART is designed to be taken manually into a life boat or raft and activated by a switch on its casing. There are usually two, either side of the bridge wing and they operate  by being activated by in incoming radar signal, hence the name ‘transponder’ as it will only come out of ‘standby’ mode once it detects an incoming transmission. Once it does, it will show 12 blips on any radar within range, gradually becoming rings as the range decreases,


and eventually blotting the whole radar screen out like the image on the right.

What is a SART?
SART stands for Search And Rescue (Radar) Transponder. Its purpose is to assist in the location of survival craft, or vessels in distress. It is the principal means of homing in the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). It allows any vessel or aircraft equipped with marine band radar to detect and locate the survivors at a range of up to 5 nautical miles from a surface vessel, or perhaps 30 nautical miles from an aircraft, depending on its altitude.
All big ships on international trade are required to carry SARTs for use in liferafts, as well as for emergency location of the main vessel. In the majority of cases, two SARTs are carried, one each side of the bridge, mounted where they can be easily reached if abandoning ship.
To give the required detection range, the SART needs to be operated at least 1 metre above the water, so suitable arrangements have to be made for erecting the SART on the survival craft. A SART may be supplied with a telescopic pole which is pushed out through a hole in the liferaft canopy with the SART perched on top. A less precarious arrangement which has proved just as effective is to hang the SART inside the raft using a rope or strap passed over the canopy support tube.

How does a SART work?
When the SART receives a valid signal, it switches into Transmit mode, and responds to each valid signal by transmitting a series of twelve (12) sweeps through the band 9,200 to 9,500 MHz, each transmission lasting just over 100 microseconds in total. This signal is seen on the passing vessel’s or aircraft’s radar screen as a line of twelve dots, with the SART position being given by the closest dot. This is a clear, unmistakable, Internationally recognized signal, and shows the presence AND location of a vessel, survivor or life raft with an active SART.

Flags and blasts

To be honest after a couple of glasses of that Weston’s cloudy scrumpy, a plate of baked haddock, parsley and butter I’m past caring bot I suppose I’d better press on Smile

Flag A, alpha,  I have a diver down so keep well clear.

bravo maritime signal flag

Flag B, bravo, I’m loading, unloading or carrying something likely to go BANG Sad smile

charlie maritime signal flag

Flag C, charlie, affirmative, unless flown under flag N, november, in which case ‘I need urgent help’

golf maritime signal flag

Flag G, golf, I require a pilot, and yes I know I’ve missed out E and F but it’s 20:30 now and I’m ‘flagging’ Smile

hotel maritime signal flag

Flag H, hotel, which is red and white and indicates ‘I have a pilot on board’ or if you’re in the upper Clyde ‘I don’t need a pilot because I’m exempt’.

lima maritime signal flag

Flag L, lima, which is usually painted on the side of customs, border agency or fisheries protection vessels and means ‘STOP’

november maritime signal flag

Flag N, november, no or negative unless flown above C for charlie, in which case ‘help’

oscar maritime signal flag

Flag O, oscar, or ‘man overboard’

There are loads more and their combinations thereof but I better move on to sound signals before I ‘miss the boat’ Smile

This will be blasts on the horn, claxon or whistle whilst manoeuvring or underway.


Sort of easy to remember, short blasts are 1sec, long ones 4 to 6, starboard turn just 1 because that’s the way you’d normally turn, 2 for port because that’s not normal, 3 because it’s going ‘pear shaped’ and 5 ‘what the feck are you doing’ Smile

And in fog,


One prolonged blast: power-driven vessel making way

Two prolonged blasts: power-driven vessel stopped (but not anchored)

One prolonged and two short blasts: not under command, restricted in ability to manoeuvre (including when anchored), constrained by draught, sailing vessel, engaged in fishing (including when anchored), engaged in towing or pushing. In other words, everything that a power-driven vessel has to give way to.

One prolonged and three short blasts: the vessel being towed. Ideally this signal is made immediately after the towing vessel’s signal.

Bell (rapid ringing for five seconds – at one minute intervals): vessel at anchor. Vessels aground also sound three distinct strikes of the bell immediately before and after the rapid ringing.

Bell plus Gong (for five seconds): a vessel over 100m in length at anchor sounds the bell in the forepart of the vessel, then immediately sounds the gong in the after part.

One short, one prolonged and one short blasts: vessel at anchor to warn an approaching vessel.

Four short blasts: pilot vessel engaged on pilotage duty.

Well, that’s it really, I’ve had enough so I’ll just leave you with what’s left in my camera from the last few days of ‘uninspiration’


A Glasgow ‘rainblob’


Water flowing into Ryat Linn reservoir.


Water flowing out of Ryat Linn reservoir, which is kind of bizarre because this is how it was last week.



The Dutch frigate heading out to the North Sea this morning.

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