Monday, July 30, 2018

When does Overtaking become Crossing, and what does that mean to you in your boat?

Image result for vessel overtaking or crossing
A picture is worth a thousand words...

If you are overtaking, you are the give-way vessel. Always. Even if you are under sail.  If you are crossing, and are to another vessel's "right," you are the stand-on vessel. (The term "right-of-way is not used)  If the crossing vessel was on the opposite side in the picture above, he would be the give-way vessel.

It's important for a novice boater to understand basic concepts, such as "stand-on vessel," "give-way vessel," and "overtaking" versus "crossing" vessels. When I am forced to organize my thoughts to coherently explain something to someone else, it increases my personal level of understanding and helps me better apply what I know to the real world.

Next time you are on a boat, explain crossing, overtaking, and meeting head-on to someone along for the ride with you. Boating is archaic, with archaic terminology such as "abaft the beam." These terms need explaining. The act of doing this will benefit you and your listener.

Image courtesy Ace Boater training

If you are approaching another vessel at night and are in a position to see her red side-light, it means that you are the give-way vessel and must pass behind her. 

You should alter course and speed to avoid crossing in front of that vessel unless your paths will keep you more than a half-mile apart. 

If, on the other hand, you see a green side-light shining at you from another vessel's right (starboard) side, you are the stand-on vessel. The plan is for you to maintain course and speed in your vessel.

Be prepared for the other boater to not understand the navigation rules and not behave correctly.

That captain may not see you, he or she may be drunk or drugged, or maybe it's a case of "just plain dumb."

On Monday last, I was training two FBC members on a 28-foot twin. As we idled through the Thunderbolt no-wake zone another small boat approached us head-on. We altered course to the right and he turned in our direction. The captain had a group on board and was showing them the condos on the bank. No one on that boat was watching where they were going, and when he finally saw us, at about 50 feet, he was visibly startled. He waved at us sheepishly as he passed. 

Don't be that guy. Don't get startled or worse. Even though almost no one uses sound signals when meeting other vessels, we should have. A one-second blast of my horn or whistle would have been my signal of intention to alter course to the right. And it would have alerted him to our presence.

As the stand-on vessel in a world full of know-nothing boaters, you may have to alter course or reduce speed to prevent a collision. There's a collision-regulation (COLREG) for that too. It says don't crash. If it's chaos on the water and there are boats in all directions, slow down. If there is going to be a collision, watch it from a distance.

Okay, so what happens when you are right on or very close to that 22.5-degree line abaft the other vessel's right beam (side). Are you now overtaking and responsible to alter course and speed to give way? Or are you in a crossing situation and the "stand-on" vessel?

The most conservative response rule works here. If not sure whether you are the give-way vessel or the stand-on vessel, be safe and give way by reducing speed and/or changing your heading to avoid colliding.

How many times you have ever heard a small vessel give or return a sound signal on the water, as required by inland nav rules. That's one of the reasons you need a sound signaling device on hand, such as a whistle. 

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