The big nautical news this weekend here in San Francisco was the Queen Mary 2 coming and going. I didn't go out to see her arrival (clearing the Golden Gate Bridge by a scant 30 feet) but all the sailing press covered it well. And, according to this photo from Latitude 38, many sailboats were out there checking out the action.
Photo ©2007 Ed Broberg
There were two reasons I didn't go out for the spectacle: 1) I had sick kids at home, and 2) I've seen cruise ships much more closely than I ever want to again.
Cut to the Mid-Atlantic circa 1992, we were on a pleasant beam reach with medium breeze, fairly flat water, and sunny skies. My Dad was on watch (important point) and I was up in the cockpit keeping him company. The day before we had seen about a dozen whales, countless dolphins, and a pod of what we believed were pilot whales; we had a chart out and were trying to figure out if we had just hit the contintental shelf or maybe were directly on top of Atlantis. Good discussions and frankly one of the best moments of the trip for me.
I looked at my snazzy ass sailing watch, noticed that I was "on" in 5 minutes and asked my Dad if he wanted me to get him a soda while I went below to grab one for my watch (notice that we're still on my Dad's watch at this point, very very important concept to understand). I stand up, step toward the companionway and WHOA, HOLY CRAP, THERE'S A MONSTER SHIP RIGHT THERE!!!!
About a half-mile away, the freaking Queen Elizabeth II was rumbling along at what must have been Mach 2. We scurried around, me gaining a death grip on the wheel (in case the autohelm decided to implode at that moment), my Dad running to the VHF, and the other two crew running up to see what the commotion was.
When we raised her on the radio, the communications officer on watch plainly stated, "we've had you on visual but never got you on radar, we just figured you were a singlehander sleeping when we couldn't raise you". At that moment, eight pissed off eyes glared at the useless radar reflector dangling in the rigging. A few more comments to the ship and we signed off.
I was now on watch, clicked on the stopwatch function and timed her 12 minutes to disappear on the horizon. We had been on parallel courses and it only takes 12 minutes of not paying attention and we could have been run down. For the next couple of nights, I actually stayed awake on watch.
Even though the QE2 technically didn't wrong us in any way, I felt it was somehow justified when she ran aground outside Cape Cod a couple of months later. Reliving this experience just didn't seem necessary this past weekend. And I certainly didn't want to cause this ship to run aground after all the money San Francisco has spent to dredge the Bay for the cruise ship industry.