Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Whiskey Golf

There’s a naval exercise area northwest of Nanaimo called Area WG, referred to locally simply as “Whiskey Golf”.  Its not always active but when it is everybody needs to steer clear and it can be kind of a pain to get around it. 


Whiskey Golf is not identified on all charts but its on some of them and I have taken the time to plot the coordinates of the corners as waypoints on our nav computer.  That way they are always visible even if the underlying chart doesn’t show the boundaries clearly.  Its up to mariners to determine whether or not WG is active and I typically just assume it is active unless I hear otherwise.  You can call Winchelsea Control on Channel 10 and they will tell you whether the range is active and the Coast Guard automated reports usually include a sentence indicating whether the range is active and if so for what period of time.  This year Winchelsea Control has started making regular announcements on 16 whenever the range is active and I happened to comment to Marilyn this morning that I thought that was a particularly good idea.  Our trip today could have been slightly shorter if the range had not been active – as it was I had a course plotted that took us just outside the eastern boundary of the range and then across the southern boundary into Nanaimo

Evidently there was another mariner out today who had not bothered to even listen to Channel 16 (which every mariner is legally obligated to do at all times unless he is obligated to monitor a commercial traffic control channel).  As we were approaching the NE corner of the range I heard Winchelsea Control hailing some vessel – I didn’t pay particular attention to the name and I probably wouldn’t post it here anyway – let’s call him Vessel X. 

“Vessel X this is Winchelsea Control on Channel 16.  You are trespassing in an active naval range.  Turn your vessel immediately to a heading of 180 true and leave the range at once.  Winchelsea Control OUT.”  (he’s very adamant about that OUT when he signs off)  Now anybody with half a brain that got such a message would have immediately complied but evidently the captain of Vessel X was not your ordinary fool.  He started out by apologising profusely for being in the wrong place but evidently he did not alter course.  The next transmission from Winchelsea Control was an order to switch and answer on Channel 10 which is their working channel.  This was shaping up to be excellent entertainment so I tuned our second radio to Channel 10 so as not to miss anything.

Evidently there was a patrol boat following or more likely trying to head off Vessel X because his first transmissions were a whining series of complaints about how he was doing what they told him to do and why were they continuing to harass him.  Control kept requesting/ordering him to assume a 180 true course and did so for about 20 minutes.  It didn’t take long for us to figure out that he wasn’t following the course they wanted him to but of course we couldn’t see him so we could only infer what he was doing from the conversation. 

At one point Control told him that the reason the patrol boat was so close was to protect him because that “big airplane above you” is dropping torpedoes and if one of them lands on your deck it will go right through you.  At another point he advised the hapless Captain that because he was trespassing on an active range he had no insurance and if anything happened it would be entirely his problem.  Finally about 15 or 20 minutes into the adventure it was obvious that Winchelsea Control was running out of patience when he asked “What exactly are you using for navigation this morning?”  Long pause …….. no response, followed by,  “Is it safe for me to assume that you have no charts onboard?”   Again no response.  At that point though the moron did finally start to ask about the 180 course request and Control informed him that he was actually on a 150 True course. 

He must have finally turned to 180 but at one point we could hear the skipper on the patrol boat telling him that the colregs required him to give way and that he must alter to starboard immediately.  I assume at that point that the patrol boat had parked himself directly in front of Vessel X with his red light facing the errant boat.  That would make Vessel X the give way vessel and could explain the conversation about altering to starboard.  I suppose it would also help explain the whining about how the patrol boat was harassing him.  Somewhere in the middle of all that Control also gave him a lecture about monitoring Channel 16.  That came when the fool started complaining that there was no way for him to know that the range was active.   Obviously if he had been monitoring 16 – as he claimed to be – he would have heard several announcements about the range being active and that was the nature of the lecture that he received.  I’m just guessing but I expect he didn’t actually even turn his radio on until the patrol vessel with its flashing lights and sirens pulled up beside him and made hand signals about talking on the radio.

It was really good entertainment that could only have been improved if we could have seen it all live.  I scanned the water with my binoculars but couldn’t figure out where it was happening.  We could hear the siren when the patrol vessel captain was on the radio so I think it was safe to assume that there would have been flashing red and blue lights as well.

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