Online Rules column urges lights knowledge

A 417

As an online columnist for Ocean Navigator Online's Rules of the Road column, which includes discussion on how to maintain one's watchkeeping skills, Jim Austin receives email feedback from online subscribers. Many of the comments include vignettes about close calls at sea and wild sea stories in general. Most recently, Tomas Daly, a subscriber based aboard his boat in La Paz, Mexico, wrote the following note to Austin after a newsletter discussed the need to know one's lights at sea:

"In the early 1920s my dad obtained a job as ordinary seaman on a freighter plying the waters between Seattle and San Pedro, Calif. Among his first duties was that of bow watch in the early morning hours. He was told that if he saw a light to port, he should run back about 50 feet to a bell and ring it once; light to starboard, run back and ring the bell twice; light dead ahead, run back and ring the bell three times. All went fine for several nights, then one night he saw a light to starboard. Rang twice. Just got back to the bow when he spotted a light to port. Rang once. Ran back to the bow and spotted another light to starboard. Rang twice. Ran back to the bow, trying to catch his breath and immediately spotted a couple of lights dead ahead. Ran back and rang three times twice. This continued for about five more minutes before the captain yelled down from the bridge, "Knock off that bell ringing you idiot; we're coming into San Pedro!"

By Ocean Navigator