foggy day on VHF

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2014/01/12
Yesterday morning, ice slowed down all the ferries approaching World Financial Ferry Terminal.
This morning: it was all ice and fog.


Little Lady crossing before Jay Michael pushing a crane barge.

On VHF radio: “(Name of tug), 14, can I get a visibility report? thank you.”

Voices, they were all speaking:

“I can see buoy 3 and 5, but not much beyond that.’
“Can you see them?”
“Yeah, you might want to look out, the Evergreen is right behind me.”
Little Lady and Captain Log communicate as they pass each other in complete greyness.
“There’s ice in Morris Canal.”
The buoys have been pushed around by ice and are off-station.

Voices from ferries whose names I rarely hear uttered on 13, calling out today where the fog has collected extremely heavily: around Liberty and Ellis Islands.

Miss New York, leaving Liberty Channel to Ellis Island.”

“Miss New Jersey, I see you. See you on the one.”

“Miss Freedom…” “did you leave the dock yet?” “yes, I’m in front of the Statue:” “Roger that.”

“Miss New Jersey, departing the battery wall for the Statue.”

“Miss Freedom, I’m south of the clock, where are you?”

“Leaving Morris Canal…south of you.”


“I’m at the WR buoy (red buoy marking a wreck at the mouth of the Morris Canal) and I can’t see the Clock!”

 circlelineBkynCircleline Brooklyn
I hope these passengers got sightseeing boat tickets for half-price.

Voices from the Kills:

“you waiting? what time did they say?”
“yeah, we’re waiting.”
“…leaving the Kills, docking at Hess Bayonne”

Voices from the anchorage:

“you heading over to Stapleton?”
“no, Governor’s, the jersey side.”
“Oh, ok,”
“…got a visual on you, one whistle…one whistle…”
“Yeah, Cap, I don’t have you on radar yet, but see you on the one.”

Voices from everywhere, mingling:

“…I’m coming off the range” “sorry, I thought you were taking the greens…”
“I don’t know what’s going on here.’
“…We’re going to make a hard right…”
Traffic calling individual tugs, requesting that they switch to 14.
At one point, the skies cleared and the radio fell silent. But it did not last long.
At night, the silhouette of CGC Sturgeon Bay passes southbound back to her berth in Bayonne, NJ; she’s has cleared the way for self-loading cargo ship Flintersky (flag: Netherland) to go up to Albany.
Fog, thick thick.
Warm, moist, balmy air,
Icy waters. Recipe for thick grey pea soup. Sneert!

8 Responses

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  1. tugster said, on 2014/01/12 at 07:56

  2. Reid Sprague said, on 2014/01/12 at 10:42

    Nice evocation! Haven’t we all been there: can’t see a thing, our picture of the world formed by radio traffic, earnestly remembered mental pictures and radar… add ice (particularly if it affects your speed and maneuverability) and you are truly living in a dream, but an unforgiving one with very realistic consequences! Thanks, Christina.

    • bowsprite said, on 2014/01/12 at 12:20

      “your post is delightfully recognisable…. when we are navigating in fog, we make ourselves heard, because there is the real chance that we are not seen, on radar. We are a bit stressed out, yes, and that´s make us talkative on VHF.”
      –Thank you, Reid and Silent Commentator!

      One winter, I was a deckhand on a small vessel without radar, we had to cross the river back and forth for hours in blizzard conditions. We heard nothing and could see only a few feet ahead of us. The fear of some huge unit unknowingly plowing us down was scary. We are so lucky with radio and radar…and fuel! and goretex and…et cetera, etc.

  3. "Captain" Mary said, on 2014/01/12 at 20:04

    It was a weird day, for sure. Ice in LILAC’s slip in the morning and everything on board dripping wet with condensation as the inside of ship was far colder than the outer air. It was drizzling in the galley with drips falling from all surfaces overhead. Tape would not stick to any surface anywhere. The forward crew quarters under the waterline was so cold that my glasses fogged when I came out on deck. Jersey disappeared and re-appeared as the pea soup came and went.

  4. Rembert said, on 2014/01/13 at 11:30

    A great chance for sailing ships, to do a decent smugglers job, instead of wasting time with declarations to harbor authorities (as usually required, I learn from blog post 2013/04/10).

    Real fun to see, that even strict arrangements in port waters of New York (where a rough sketch has to be signed with a warning, no to be overconfident…) can be disrupted by some water in the atmosphere (and not only trafffic on nearby Rhine, where a ship at famous Loreley three years ago suddenly vanished from radar at weather conditions, similar to those depicted on the photos – the river being a mere 200 metres broad at that landmark.

    And what a chance for a painter, working in Chinese tradition, to show the subtleties of foggy waters…

  5. mageb said, on 2014/01/13 at 12:57

    Here our harbor is little used by the large commercial stuff. Still the fog is thick and the visibility is often zero these days. I’m a mile up the point and can hear the fog horns from both the bay and the ocean side.

  6. Michael said, on 2014/01/14 at 07:52

    That was engrossing. Thanks C!

  7. Ken said, on 2014/01/16 at 12:38

    We had some fog here last weekend. Plus we have lots of ice. But it gave me the opportunity to see 5 ships in a little over an hour. That’s rare in these parts.

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