Kayak collision with ship

A lot of ships are equipped with maneuvering thrusters now. I got to see one in action near the mouth of the Cuyahoga once; the ship came down one channel of the river backwards and made a turn at a fork in the river.

Those thrusters are scary powerful; I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near a ship doing maneuvers with them.


Remember the pecking order. The only thing you have ROW over is recreational powerboats.
I am scared batchit in the fog with lobster boats about. They typically orbit in a spiral fashion to starboard but inbetween sets they can accelerate to fast speeds. Plus you don’t know which pots are safe to hide in.


I experienced a bow thruster of a commercial tugboat in Salmon Bay - Seattle that sent me on a Yahoo-ride. I saw it and thought I was bigger than it was. Turned out that my bracing skills were only slightly larger. Lesson learned.

Years later I came too close to a large cargo ship as it was setting its anchor in Elliot Bay-Seattle. I chose a course that brought me very close as I thought it was at anchor. As it turned out it was setting its anchor and the turbulence from the thruster was a serious and completely avoidable matter.

Not proud of either of these experiences and I hope that others learn more quickly than I have.

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thanks for all comments so far

I found this vid of a gopro helmet view of a collision with a containership

this one with an anchored pleasureboat, sadly the tanker appears to ignore the VHF call

This video shows a green channel marker not far from the parked powerboat. Not clear where the red is, so we don’t know if this was a narrow channel.

A VHF call to the tanker likely wouldn’t have done anything, as he needs to stay in the channel and he can’t stop.

THINK people…
You are at or near the bottom of the food chain out there…
Stay out of the way no matter who you think has the right of way.

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Those videos only show how hard it is to have an accident with a large ship like that. The jet ski was being stupid and riding the wake and the pleasure boat should never be anchored in the shipping channel, let alone sit and hope the ship goes around it.
Even with a dead engine you have plenty of time to pull an anchor and drift out of the shipping lane.
Hard to imagine being as big of an idiot as the guy on the jet ski then posting the video.

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I frequent two different “minor” shipping lanes all the time with ferries and yachts (But no real “tankers”) coming by all the time.

The biggest threat are jet skis. They seem to like to buzz around you getting close and treating you like an acrobatic obstacle. My wife always complains about them making statements like “NO ONE WHO LOVES AND RESPECTS NATURE AND THE WATER WOULD GET CAUGHT DEAD IN ONE”.

The second biggest threat IMHO are boats, especially fast ones like cigarette boats, often crewed or owned by people with way more money than genital size or brains. Their desire to show off and likely blood alcohol contents owing to the party scene on their craft are a big problem. See above comment about Jetskis and multiply it by ten.

The big stuff is easy to see from far enough away and moves slowly enough that you can time a channel crossing accordingly.

Bright, high visibility kayaks in colors like orange, yellow or red and paddle blades help.
Marine radios help to hear about nearby big ships or for you yourself to announce a channel crossing and give everyone a heads up (but it’s not 100% you can’t assume everyone will hear you).

When it’s foggy all bets are off. Wait for it to lift or don’t go out.

Or stay close to shore 99% of the time like I do. I can barely rescue. Tried it once, succeeded so yay for me I am class 3 but didn’t like doing it.

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The funny part of that video (just proving the guy is a true moron) is that he caused the situation himself. Besides intentionally going that close to a ship, he reaches out to touch the ship with the arm attached to the dead man switch and pulls it out, killing his jetski at the closest moment to the ship. Genius!

If he died he sure would have deserved a darwin award for that one.


moronic, but still a useful video. does it seem that as long as he had power , the jet ski was stable? or towards the back of the ship would he have capsized any ways ? was that the effect of the propellers? would a vessel under tow have caused a similar effect to the jet skier?

If you open the video on Youtube instead of watching the embedded version here, you can read the comments. One of them contains a summary of the investigation. Some info found there:
The channel is 300 feet wide.
The tanker tried to contact the pleasure boat on VHF channel 16&9.
The pleasure boat had engine failure, was awaiting a tow boat to arrive, and had cast anchor instead of letting itself drift out of the channel.

(Some of the comments to the other video with the jetski are quite hilarious, by the way. Also worth reading, though not as informative.)


I can’t comment about a collision with a Freighter, But a few years ago I helped out the Gay Olimpics in Cleveland, Oh as a safety boat during the swim part. I was paddling a Ocean Kayak sit on top for that, but I also brought mt Valley Aquanaunt and paddled it after the competition… I paddled past a Great Lakes Freighter as it was being unloaded probably about 100 yards away. On my way back, I paddled past it again at the same distance, but all of a sudden, I was in a washing machine of currents. The thrusters were going and it was beond crazy…I was literally freaking out thinking I could be pulled towords the ship. I paddled like hell and got away from it but I was shaking for quite a while

So greyheron, where are you located?

Maybe something like this?

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I’m in the exurbs east of Cleveland–Geauga County; semi-rural. My usual paddling destination is LaDue Reservoir.

That video sums it up.
It looks very close, but it’s so huge that it takes forever to get there and then…… the displacement is huge so big waves.

I sail in and around heavy shipping lanes. Big vessels are deceptive in where they are going and how fast. DO NOT cross in front of one ever. Even if a mile or two away. Stay well out of the marked lanes. I have seen small vessels conflict with. Stay in the boat and paddle like mad toward the nearest away side. As long as you are not smack on the bow, there will normally be a huge bow wake that will aid your escape. DO NOT fall in. As it passes paddle away, hard, there is a fill in the hole current at the stern, If the sip is riding high and light, the props will be breaking the surface. Basically, you MUST do everything to avoid a such encounter. You are unlikely to come off well. You are very likely to die. Stay away. KNOW WELL, normal horn signals so you will know what the vessel is intending to do. Leaving the dock, reverse, pass to the right, pass to the left and 5 blasts is “What the F666 are you doing? You are about to die.”


Gotta wonder why the jet ski guy chose to broadcast his stupidity and extremely poor judgment.

The driver of the dead powerboat might have worried which way the boat would drift and preferred sitting in a fixed spot. Inexperience/lack of knowledge? Or assumption that the ship would be forced to yield?

thanks sailor, your post pretty much answers my question

Big vessels are deceptive in where they are going and how fast.

hole current at the stern