Marine Technology

San_Francisco_Oakland_Bay_Bridge_Zan_810

This morning was very foggy. In my daily ferry trip to work I learned a little about marine technology. I had assumed that, here in the 21st century, ships, like the ferry I ride to work, used some combination of high resolution GPS, radar, and maybe radio telemetry triangulation to identify where the ship was and where everything else in the bay was (other ships, the bridge pylons, etc.) I found out this morning that this must not be the case. As we trucked along, at a pretty good clip, across the bay with zero visibility of any kind, all of a sudden, the engines go from about 3/4 of full thrust to zero thrust. The whole boat lunges forward as we rapidly decelerate (due to water resistance) and out of the pea soup appears the massive bay bridge center anchorage dead ahead. The captain turns the boat sharply to the left and we swing around it and accelerate again. I’m glad our captain has good reflexes.

Later, upon landing and walking to work, the entire embarcadero was echoing with different ships fog horns being blasted.

It turns out that the two methods employed these days to deal with fog are slamming on the brakes if you see something ahead of you and making a ton of noise in hopes that someone else out there hears you and doesn’t crash into you. I thought we were living in the future, what happened?

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