Don't 'play chicken': Freighter and sail boat have near miss in St. Clair River

·2 min read
Windsor Port Authority harbour master Peter Barry says small vessels need to get out of the way for larger ones, which have the priority.  (Darrin DiCarlo/CBC - image credit)
Windsor Port Authority harbour master Peter Barry says small vessels need to get out of the way for larger ones, which have the priority. (Darrin DiCarlo/CBC - image credit)

Those on board a sail boat scrambled to move out of the way as they nearly collided with a large cargo freighter in the St. Clair River.

A video posted to YouTube Sunday shows the sail boat manoeuvring past a Cuyahoga bulk carrier, which honked its horn signalling for the small vessel to move out of its way.

Windsor Port Authority harbour master and director of board operations Peter Barry said when he watched the video, "the first thing that went through my mind is, what is that sailboat going to do to get out of the way in time?"

Barry said the sail boat did everything it could to get out of the way, but it shouldn't have been in that position to begin with.

"They were also in the middle of the shipping channel, which causes its own issues in trying to get away from a ship that's coming up," he said.

Darrin DiCarlo/CBC
Darrin DiCarlo/CBC

Near misses happen frequently

But this isn't the first time he's seen this happen.

According to Barry, these sorts of near misses occur quite frequently.

"It's like competing in your Toyota little Camry along a ... 56 long transport. If you want to play chicken with those, you're going to lose," he said.

Since there's no friction, Barry said with the force of those large freighters it's difficult for them to steer away when they aren't moving fast.

On top of that, the Detroit River and St. Clair River are not that wide, making it difficult for ships to navigate.

"It takes about a kilometre for it to steer and you can see on that video as the captain of that ship started to make that turn, he started to turn quite a ways before it, to stay in that ... channel," he said.

Barry said everyone on the water should be aware of other vessels and start preparing to move away when they see the boat is about one kilometre from them.

If you hear the big boats blaring their horns, Barry said that means it's often too late.

Any boat that doesn't move out of the way for a large freighter can be subject to a $30,000 fine, Barry said, adding they usually always try to educate people first.

"The message is stay away from the freighters, be aware of what's around you at all times," he said.

"Your chances of survival when you're hit by a ship are very, very low, so get out of the way, be aware, enjoy your day and let's not play chicken with a big freighter anymore."

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