We have a place on the water just a few miles out of Plymouth, which makes for some very enjoyable and interesting boating.
About a week ago, some neighbors and I decided we would head into Plymouth to get some fish and chips for dinner, perfect!
Now, how to get there, car or boat? I offered to drive us round in the car, but in the end we decided on taking the speedboat, as it takes about half the time of the car, and we wouldn't have to worry about finding a parking space. The time was about 7:30PM if I remember correctly, so it was beginning to get dark. I don't mind piloting the speedboat in the dark, as I consider my night vision to be not bad, and all our lights etc... are up to standard.
We set off, and arrive on the Barbican in Plymouth after about 15 minutes of trouble free cruising.
I drop off two of my friends (there were four of us in total) at the Mayflower steps so they can run to the chippie to get the food whilst the two of us just hover around just off of the steps for 15 minutes or so.
When they returned, we picked them up from the steps, and head for home. By now it was pitch black out in the sound, but we had at least half of our journey with the lights of Plymouth behind us, so visibility was quite good considering the time of night.
The sea state was fairly calm too, so we could easily plane on the way back, mostly crusing at about 20 knots or so.
About halfway through our journey and just past the main shipping lane into plymouth, our fuel decided to run out much to my passengers horror. Great. Fear not though I thought, as we always carry a spare can of petrol just in case. As we float around, filling up the tank, we get to realise the extent of just how dark the sea is at night (very!). Anyway, we filled up and began on our way again.
I looked around the familiar buoyage of the sound, and found the twice red, once every 10 seconds I was looking for, and headed for that buoy, as I know that from that point, our place is easily visible and there are no obstructions between that buoy and our mooring.
I eased on the throttle and made sure my friend in the front seat was keeping a good lookout all around for other boats. I kept as best a lookout as I could, but couldn't give it my full attention as I was piloting the boat.
As we headed towards this buoy, I noticed that it was becoming increasingly more difficult to identify, due to there being a village on the far side of the sound with many lights. This made the small red light on the buoy appear to blend in. Very annoying.
By now we were still doing about 20-25 knots, and the sound seemed deserted. All of a sudden I saw a small green light just off of the port (left) bow. Then I saw a small red light right next to it. This was followed by the sound of a very loud engine, and a HUGE looming shadow. This could only mean one thing. That we were heading straight for this boat. My friends all panicked, but I tried to remain as calm as possible, knowing their lives were now in my hands, especially as this oncoming boat was probably three times the size of ours.
I turning the wheel hard to starboard (right) and floored the throttle. We accelerated to about 40 knots as this large powerboard passed about 30ft from the stern of our boat. We turned to look but couldn't see anyone on deck, and due to the powerboats high bow and the fact that they did not alter their course or speed, we think they hadn't even seen us.
We cruised back to our mooring a bit shaken from the near miss, but also pretty exhilarated, or maybe that was just me?Lessons Learned:
- Fill up whenever you get the chance. I knew the tank was low, but our fuel gauge does not function, and I assumed we would have had enough to return to the mooring (which we could have, but it would have taken a long time). If our fuel had run out 5 minutes later we could easily have been killed (Although that said, if our fuel hadn't run out in the first place, we probably would not have been in that situation)
- Always have everyone you can on lookout. I should have made sure that my friends in the back were also keeping a good lookout all around.
- Don't travel at night unless you really have to. Without being able to see more than 10 meters in front, it can be pretty dangerous, especially when there are unlight fishing buoys around, and the occasional boat with no lights.