Driving tips for challenging conditions
Marlin fishing expert Captain Bob Jones has more than 25 years experience and thousands of sea hours under his belt. As skipper of Fascination II, Bob Jones operates a successful charter company and in 2007 he commemorated his 25th Marlin Season.
What began as a hobby, quickly turned into a profession for Captain Bob who says the highlight of his career is "being able to spend so much time in the seventh wonder of the world - The Great Barrier Reef."
On board Fascination II, he clocked up 5,500 hours, about 380km in two years, but overall, during his five year Fascination project, he has clocked up 9,000 hours and spent 670 days at sea.
His longest voyage was from Melbourne to Lizard Island, which is about 140 miles north of Cairns.
He specialises In Live on board Charters from August to December from Townsville, Cairns to Lizard Island.
He has served on the Eastern Tuna MAC board as a permanent observer giving representation to the charter boats on the east coast of Australia.
This month Captain Bob shares his knowledge and experience on driving in challenging conditions.
Night Driving and fog
It's what you can't see that makes night driving and fog a challenge. It is important to be aware of what is going on around you while driving a power boat and it's not until we are driving at night or in fog that we realise how much we rely on clear vision.
During the night you will have to rely on feeling the waves rather than seeing them, as it is harder to detect the wash from passing boats. It is best to slow your speed, but not too much as it can cause the boat to contour the waves and thus resulting in an uncomfortable ride. The bigger the boat the less affected it is by the waves.
Navigating at night can be challenging because you are relying on flashing navigational lights rather than landmarks. It is advisable to keep the boat on autopilot to maintain course, as it is easy to drift off course by about 20 degrees with hand steering. It is also a lot harder to judge distances at night.
It is a lot harder to work out the range of visibility when driving in fog or at night. However, a GPS can help you work out how far away you are from a fixed object such as a beacon. It is important to remember that the range of visibility in fog can change quite quickly so it is crucial to bear in mind your stopping distance. For instance, a planing powerboat will have less than 100m (330ft) to stop. A moderate speed in fog would be about 20 knots or less depending on the actual conditions, but it is vital to keep a high level of concentration and run the boat on autopilot.
This usually happens at much slower speeds when a boat is on the downwind slope of a following wave where the bow is at risk of being immersed. If the bow becomes immersed it could cause the boat to spin because it is deeper in the water than the stern. The danger in this situation is the possibility of the boat being rolled over by the advancing wave as it is turned beam on to the breaking wave. Fast powerboats should be able to accelerate out of this type of situation but a cautious driver may decide to close the throttle thus slowing the boat and increasing the chances of broaching. If approaching a shallow harbour entrance where there is an onshore wind and breaking waves it is wise to keep a close eye on the waves astern as well as in front.