Confederation Marine Modellers

In all things connected with shipping, and especially with their evolutions, simplicity is highly desirable.

Collision at sea is generally the result of a sudden act on the part of a master, or pilot, or commanding-officer of the deck. Such hasty decision often proceeds directly from a mere glance at the relative positions of the approaching ships; consequently , the remedy seems to lie in the enabling of commanders and others to gather from such "glance” absolutely correct notions for their guidance at the moment. Experience convinces that no positive “ rule of the road” can properly be laid down for the avoidance of collisions; a certain discretionary power in each commander seems to be necessary for the guidance of each vessel ;-“ positive rules ” for the management of the helm may even be dangerous.
Collisions are not confined to the hours of darkness, since they occur in broad daylight, especially on rivers ;-hence they are not the consequence of a defective system of lights alone. Collisions in general may be attributed to neglect of the following consideration, viz.,- if a commander sees a vessel approaching , either stem-on or obliquely, he can with certainty avoid her if he discovers what his opponent is doing or is about to do with his helm! Legislation, therefore, seems to be needed in order to give to commanders, at the proper moment, this important information. Therefore I propose as follows, viz. 

By Day.-Whenever a commander or pilot gives an order to his helmsman to “starboard ” the helm, let him immediately place himself where he (or some one forward whose duty it may be) can be seen by the other ship ), and at once extend his right arm horizontally -always supposing his face is towards his own ship’s head; and If he orders “port,” let him in like manner extend his left arm. When either of the commanders does this, collision is scarcely possible.
Priority of signal would then be the only point for discussion, in case of damage through obstinacy. Vessels that are manifestly smaller should be expected to attend and conform, when practicable, to signal from the larger ship, and especially where draft of water might render it desirable. Unnecessary obstinacy at such times would be criminal.
Surely, by day, no other “rules " can be necessary,-except the old established ones of “ Starboard tack hold on,” “ Sailing vessel hold on,” “ Steamer give way,” &c.

By Night.-A danger light is absolutely indispensable. At present we have none. Let, therefore, a white light be always a danger light. It should be carried at the bowsprit end of all square-rig vessels, circumstances permitting, and within certain limits of the land. 
It should be compulsory in all sailing vessels to have this light in a lantern of three colours, as it is often used at present, the three bull’s-eyes being lighted from the same wick; care being taken to have a stick (say two feet long) attached to the after part of the lantern, by means of which (as a guide rod) the more correctly to lash the lantern in a fore and aft line with the bowsprit. The centre or white light (the red and green lights indicating “port” and “starboard” as at present) to be so hidden by projecting screens, which might be attached to the lantern, that another ship being more than two points on either bow would not see the danger light, but would see either the red or green light, which would at once indicate her course and direction.

When vessels are approaching and any order is given in either of them as to moving the helm, an additional light coloured or white, according to circumstances) should be exhibited where best seen, as under, viz
To indicate that the helm either is, or is about to be, put “ a starboard,” show a hand green light.
To indicate that the helm either is, or is about to be, put “a part,” show a hand red light.
To indicate no intended change of helm, show a hand white light.
A hand lantern of three colours should always be ready after sunset.
Ships wanting a pilot might in moderate weather attach an all-round white light with a lanyard three feet below the signal lantern at the bowsprit end; in bad weather an occasional blue light at intervals, with an additional light on the forecastle, would be enough to attract a pilot’s attention.
Perhaps, then, no distinguishing light in a pilot vessel would be necessary, because pilots on the lookout would run down to and speak such ships, and in approaching might show an additional light in answer.
To distinguish steamers from sailing vessels, the lights (viz., white at the mast and red and green amidships) at present used in steamers are sufficient, except. that the White or danger light should only be visible two points on either bow, and then it would always be a warning light. The use of the hand light to be the same as for sailing vessels.
Should a steamer be in danger of overrunning a sailing vessel, a white danger light shown over the taffrail, as at present, would be sufficient.
If the above, with probably some additional arrangements, are carried out when ships meet at see, it must conduce to greater safety for even if no look-out he kept on board one of the two ships, the other could take steps for avoiding her!

Nautical lore - Suggestions for avoiding collisions at sea.

An extract from the "Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle for 1858"

               (- with potential for avoiding model collisions on the pond.)