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Boating Near & In Commercial Shipping Lanes

Commercial Shipping Traffic in Puget Sound

Although there are no commercial shipping lanes in the Sierra, boaters will encounter commercial shipping lanes in other parts of the country. The San Francisco Bay area and Puget Sound near Seattle are examples of areas where there are commercial shipping lanes and recreational boaters are required to know the Navigational Rules when boating in these areas. The photo above shows two large commercial vessels in Puget Sound. The ship on the left is "inbound" while the one on the right is "outbound". Ships of this type typically can travel at speeds of 20 knots, or a mile every three minutes.

Because of their limited ability to maneuver, smaller recreational vessels are required to "give way" to these larger vessels.

Commercial Shipping Lanes

The image above (from a GPS chartplotter) shows the shipping lanes (magenta colored dotted lines) while the two radar images are the ships shown in the first picture. The recreational boat (lower portion of the photo) is travelling slightly inside the shipping lane but a safe distance from the commercial ship. Although it is ideal to travel outside of the shipping lanes if possible, in this case the recreational vessel has to travel slightly inside the shipping lane so as to stay in safe water. The recreational vessel should travel in the same direction as the commercial traffic. Vessels should not fish in the traffic lanes nor should they anchor there unless it is an emergency. If a vessel must cross the shipping lanes the vessel should cross perpendicular to those lanes. Vessels should cross behind any commercial vessel.

Commercial Shipping Lane

This image is from a NOAA chart and depicts a similar area to the GPS chart shown above. It is apparent from this chart why the recreational vessel is travelling in the traffic lane having just passed Three Tree Point where there is little safe water between the point and the traffic lane.

Communications with Commercial Vessels in the Shipping Lanes

Commercial ships in a defined VTS (Vessel Traffic Safety) lane are not required to monitor VHF channel 16 although many of them do. They are requred to monitor channel 13, the bridge to bridge channel. Should you need to contact a commercial vessel, they should be contacted on that channel. These commercial vessels are required to monitor the relevant VTS channel, in this case channel 14 as well. This channel is Sector Seattle located at Pier 36 and is known as "Seattle Traffic". Further north, the appropriate channel is 5A as you transit into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Canadian VTS takes over closer to Victoria (Victoria Traffic).

It is a good policy for recreational boaters to monitor channel 13 when near commercial shipping traffic as well as channel 16. Many VHF radios have "dual watch" where two channels can be monitored at the same time. The U.S. Coast Guard requires, however, that two different radios must be used to monitor 16 and 13. This typically could be done with a hand held VHF at the helm station.

More information about the Vessel Traffic Safety system is available from the Coast Guard. This applies to Sector Seattle in Puget Sound. Other areas, such as San Francisco, have different requirements and channels.

 State of Nevada Honors Sierra Division 11

The Governor's Office at the State of Nevada issued a proclamation honoring the members of Sierra Division 11. This Certificate of Recognition, issued by Governor Brian Sandaval honors the work of the members of Sierra Division 11.

Certificate of Recogntion from Governor Brian Sandaval

Trans Tahoe Swim

Each year the Olympic Club of San Francisco hosts their relay swimming race. Typically there are several hundred participants with six relay swimmers per boat. The Coast Guard Auxiliary, the U.S. Coast Guard, multiple Sheriff's Department boats and event organizer boats patrol the relay to ensure that the event is a safe one. We typically find that swimmers can get separated from their boats or that boats can attempt to cross the swim line at a high rate of speed.

This year we were fortunate to have two personal water craft on the scene from North Shore Flotilla 1. These personal water craft can reach speeds of 45 knots to warn boaters that they are entering an area where swimmers are concentrated.

Auxiliarist Chris Minidew

North Shore Flotilla 1 Auxiliarist Chris Minidew

Auxiliarist Bill Stolz

North Shore Flotilla 1 Auxiliarist Bill Stolz

In addition to the two personal water craft, three other Auxiliary vessels were on scene to support the race that stretches over 10 miles.

North Shore Vessel Camie Marie on patrol

North Shore Flotilla 1 facility, Camie Marie was on scene at the event. Crewman, Tom Henderson keeps a watch on adjacent swimmers.

Crew of Melroy on patrol

Coxswain John Boyne (foreground) and Crewman, Tom Temkin observe swimmers participating in the race from Reno Flotilla 3 facility, The Melroy.

In addition to these Auxiliary vessels, South Shore Flotilla 4 was on patrol for the event and Reno Flotilla 3's Peter Rast was the communications radio guard for all of the Auxiliary vessels in the event.

Upcoming Boating Season at Lake Tahoe

Epic Winter means good boating

Lake Tahoe Water level

The Lake Tahoe level has risen over four feet since December 1, 2016. It currently is at an elevation of 6227 feet, just two feet shy of its maximum of 6229. Federal Water Master Chad Blanchard estimates that there are four feet of water in the snow pack of the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe. This snow will melt into the lake and any excess must be gradually released into the Truckee River. Boat ramps that have either been unusable, or marginal in years past will be readily available to boaters this year.

Image courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Lake Tahoe Launch Ramp in Tahoe City

This photo shows the Tahoe City Public Utility Boat Launch ramp located next to the Coast Guard Station. This photo was taken in the first week of February. Since then, the lake has risen another two feet. The Coast Guard has been using "shallow water" boats (vessel in foreground) for the last couple of seasons since the lake level was low, but they will resume using their regular 29 foot vessels this year because of the significant water level increase.

Winter Dry Suit Swim at Lake Tahoe

Five Sierra Division 11 members conducted their annual dry suit swim at the Coast Guard Station at Lake Tahoe. During the winter months, Auxiliarists who patrol are required to wear the dry suits. These suits are indeed dry in that they keep water away from the user's body. Polypropylene underwear provides further insulation from the cold. On January 16th, the water temperature at Lake Tahoe was a cold 40 degrees. The dry suit swim also serves as a "leak" test. Any suit that leaks needs to be repaired. Anyone who fell into the water without a life jacket or dry suit would likely survive less than 15 minutes.

January 16th Dry Suit Swim at Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe

Sierra Division 11 Members gather to commence the annual dry suit swim

Sierra Division 11 members gather for the annual dry suit swim. The dry suits are required when water and air temperature are less than 50 degrees.


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Division Commander Linda HaynesWelcome to Division 11Linda Haynes Division Commander


Upcoming Events

  • The next Division 11 Meeting will be held on January 26th at the Black Bear Diner in Carson City at 11 AM.



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