[Chesapeake Quarterly masthead]
Volume 4, Number 2
Table of Contents
Download pdf

Cover of Keep Clear showing a big ship
Watch Out for Big Ships

It is one of those dark hazy nights typical of a Chesapeake summer, humid and still, even in the middle of the Bay. You see nothing up ahead as you motor through the gloom, but when you finally think to look astern you notice faint white lights not there before. Are they shore lights? A fishing boat? A tug pushing (or pulling) a barge? Or a freighter, longer than three football fields and drawing over 40 feet, heading your way at close to 20 knots?

With precisely that experience in mind, Maryland Sea Grant's Jack Greer, an avid sailor, concluded that it was high time to put out information that would help recreational boaters become more aware of avoiding traffic on the Bay, especially those big ships bound for Baltimore — and especially at night. The Association of Maryland Pilots agreed to help, and over the past two decades Maryland Sea Grant and the Maryland Pilots have published several editions of a small brochure entitled, Keep Clear: Big Ships in the Chesapeake Bay. One year the Maryland Department of Natural Resources even mailed the brochure along with its annual boater registration form, so the pamphlet has reached literally hundreds of thousands of boaters throughout the state.

Included in the pamphlet are diagrams showing light configurations of big ships, facts about the constraints under which large vessels operate, and helpful tips on what to look for and how to respond in the vicinity of freighters and other large craft.

Though no substitute for good navigation skills and experience, or for time-honored navigational books and manuals, Keep Clear nevertheless serves as a handy reference for the recreational boater, and reminds anyone at the helm to continually sweep the horizon a full 360 degrees, and to watch for those seemingly small white range lights that signal the approach of one of the world's ocean-going leviathans.

Keep Clear is available as a printed brochure from Maryland Sea Grant (call 410.403.4220, x22) and also on the web at www.mdsg.umd.edu/CB/keepclear.html.

Top of Page

[Chesapeake Quarterly]
Other Issues

[Chesapeake Quarterly Bar]
[Maryland Sea Grant][NOAA]