Cases, however, occasionally arise in river navigation, wherein it is not possible to avoid collision, either with vessels, barges, or boats; as, for instance, in the pool, near the Tower, &c, owing to the very crowded condition in which such places are generally found; being surrounded on every side by one or the other. In such a dilemma the only alternative is to stop the [paddle-]wheels, and let the vessels close together as easy as possible, taking care to guard the sides and paddle boxes with fenders, and using every endeavour to boom each other off; after which, let the Steamer drift with the tide, but watch an opening among the vessels for escape, and, so soon as it offers, set her on at rather better than half speed, in order to insure a command of her.
It is somehow consoling to know that even Commanders RN have been known to collide ….
The quotation is from Commander Robert Otway RN An Elementary Treatise on Steam, more particularly as applicable to the purposes of navigation, with a familiar description of the engine; Shewing the manner of its management in giving the Rotatory Motion; how started, eased, and stopped; the Nature and Properties of Steam, on both High and Low-pressure principles; its introduction into, and discharge from, the Cylinders, illustrated; as, also, how to ascertain the quantum of Actual Pressure at which the Engine is working; and the manner of Condensing Steam explained; together with a General Account of the operations of the Engine-Room; shewing the Accidents to which Steam Boilers are liable, and means of prevention; and, further, the Economy of Coals, how to be effected, &c, &c G Poore, Plymouth 1837.
This is a very readable book, available here as a free Google PDF, giving an interesting insight into the problems of the early naval steamers — and of their engineers.