Skipper lost in fog picked up ship on phone app

  • Thu, 7 Mar 2013

Cheap as chips app saved two sailors


A yacht delivery skipper caught in fog with a failed AIS system, used a £5.99 smartphone app to avoid collision with a container ship.

Ian Engelbrecht and crew Ibolya Palko were delivering a Jaguar 36 catamaran from Cape Town to Durban, South Africa, a 12-day, 900 mile passage, when they were caught out in thick fog just four miles from the coast.

Two years ago a French fisherman died when his boat collided with a ferry in thick fog

When their primary AIS system failed they headed in close to shore to find shallow waters and avoid commercial shipping. But as an extra precaution Mr Engelbrecht powered up his smart phone and left it running with a homing device called Boat Beacon to keep a look out.

The device alerted them to a container ship, also close in, going in the opposite direction at a range of 21 miles giving enough time to assess the situation and take the necessary avoiding action. However having no visibility and due to the specific courses involved, they weren't too sure on how the Closest Point of Approach (CPA) would be.

This made it difficult to decide on the correct avoiding action to take. But nevertheless a collision was avoided and the sailor later contacted the company who make the homing device advising them to add a new feature which would give the bearing of the CPA.

A spokesman for Boat Beacon manufacturers, Pocket Mariner, said: ‘We are now adding the new CPA Bearing feature.'

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