View Full Version : Getting Started on Rules

Ian McColgin
08-26-2013, 03:12 PM
I don’t want this to sound too punctilious but there was an important general point in the current “Getting Started - Rules of the Road” that could have been as easily stated correctly and clearly.

The author confuses things saying “One is called the “stand on” vessel and the other the “burdened” vessel. The old phrasing was “burdened” versus “privileged”. Now we say “give-way” (Rule 16) and “stand-on” (Rule 17). To my eye this was a tip to some more serious inexactitude. [Page 2]

Like noting that if you are a sail boat facing a power boat “so large it’s ability to maneuver is limited, it’s prudent to stay clear. “ It’s not just prudent, it’s required by Rule 18 that a sailing vessel keep out of the way of: a vessel not under command; a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver; and a vessel engaged in fishing. More details at Rules 9, 10, and 13. [Page 3]

When we see a vessel with two cones pointed at each other [Page 4] we know that is a “vessel engaged in fishing”, not just any outboard with a line over. It’s a boat using nets, lines, trawls, etc. that restrict ability to maneuver but does not include a vessel with trolling lines or other gear that does not restrict maneuverability. (Rule 3) So as we know from Rule 18 you should stay clear as a matter of law, not just to avoid being “tangled in its gear.”

Same problem right next to it on page 4 with the vessel showing the day shape for restricted in ability to maneuver. You really can’t “assert your right-of-way” because you don’t have it.

I don’t know why the tugboat on page 7 has a fishing day shape up but to repeat, a small boat will be the stand-on vessel very rarely in a contest or right of way with a tug, containership, tanker, or fishing vessel. And if you are the stand-on you must none-the-less “take such action as will best avoid collision.” [Rule 17 (b)]

The sound signals are a not bad approximation, but the power vessel underway signal of one prolonged blast should be repeated at least every two minutes. A vessel not under command, sailing, fishing, or towing gives one prolonged followed buy two short. The last vessel in a tow should do a prolonged and three short just after the towing boat gives its signal. [Rule 35]

OK, the sound signals bit is not likely to be critical, but the repetition of the misunderstanding that sailboats have a generalized right-of way and that pleasure boats are on any sort of par with heavy commercial traffic is serious. The circumstances where a pleasure boat or a sail boat can go from stand-on to give-way are generally clear and should have been put that way, not as if it were a passing courtesy.

The “Getting Started” series is really quite good. Inevitably there will be some over-simplifications and that’s usually better than no information at all. But we don’t want small boaters thinking they are stand-on when they are emphatically not and:

We don’t want to be like Michael O’Day
Who died defending his right-of-way.
He was right, dead right, as he sailed along,
But just as dead as if he’d been wrong.

08-27-2013, 07:23 AM
I found similar problems with the light description, for example, the first sentence could easily specify that the stern light is white and shows all around. There is no mention of an all around white mast head light on larger power boats. It says if you see red and green lights you know a boat is headed toward you -- you also know it is a sail boat unless you also see a white light over the side lights. Some things come out correct if you read the whole page that could be clear from the start.

08-27-2013, 09:28 AM
Nowadays, it seems the glow of screens from the helm is brighter than the nav lights aboard many boats I come across at night.

If one can remember just one rule, it would be 17 (b)--see above.


SV Papillon
08-27-2013, 12:25 PM
When we moved our boat from Seattle to the San juans last month it was the first time I had been out in a recreational capacity on a boat in a long time. Coming out of Port Townsend there was a huge fog bank running all the way out the Straits. It was quite the change in boats just barraling out into the fog across the traffic lanes. With AIS radar and plug and play plotters, it seems that basic navigation has taken a back seat. Chan 16 was non stop the whole day with vessels in distress, vessels going the wrong way right down the middle of a traffic lane. We are lucky in having a monitored traffic scheme so its pretty simple, you call Seattle traffic and say here I am and this is where I'm going is there anythign I need to worry about.

It is definately walking a thin line publishing anything on rules of the road esspecially a interpretation or simplified explanation. However it is refreshing to have the subject at the forefront and hopefully the comments Ian has made as well as any others will go into a follow up article. I would think a interview with someone who runs a traffic area and someone from the CG would be in order.