December 7th, 2016

Tea Break Talk – Rules of the Road

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Tea Break Talk – Rules of the Road

Just as we have the Highway Code to stipulate the rules for driving a car on our roads, we have The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea to educate vessels on the rules of the nautical road.

One of the first things you might notice when you look at the summary of some of the key navigational rules below is that they are not hard and fast rules. In general, the document is written to hand over the duty to avoid collision to the skippers of the vessels, to make sound and safe decisions based upon observation, information and experience.

The most important thing to note is that no one has right of way! Instead a vessel can have priority in any given situation. This is called the ‘Stand On’ vessel. However, being the Stand On vessel would not be an adequate defence in the maritime law court for why you have sunk another boat! The over riding rule is that if collision becomes imminent, the Stand-On vessel is then REQUIRED to take all actions possible to avoid collision!

As some of the rules below involve whether or not a boat is under sail or not, it might be the right time to define exactly what this means!

The term ‘sailing vessel’ means any vessel under sail provided that propelling machinery, if fitted, is NOT being used. It means that as soon as you have your engines on and in gear, even if you have your sails up, you are a power-driven vessel!

Rule 12a (i) : Starboard Tack – Port Tack:
Only as sailors are we interested in this as it involves wind direction. When two sailing boats are on different tacks the starboard tack boat is the Stand On vessel. A sailboat is deemed to be on a starboard tack when the wind is coming from over the starboard (right) side of the boat.

Rule 12 a (ii): Windward – Leeward
When two sailing boats are on the same tack the windward sailing vessel gives way to the leeward sailing vessel. It is deemed that a Windward vessel has more maneuvering capability that a Leeward vessel.

Rule 13: Overtaking
Any vessel overtaking any other shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken, regardless whether they are under sail or engine.

Rule 5: Lookout
Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.

Rule 6: Safe Speed
Every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed so that she can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions.

Rule 7: Risk of Collision
Every vessel shall use all available means appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions to determine if risk of collision exists. If there is any doubt such risk shall be deemed to exist.

The rules above just give you a flavour of the collision regs. There are many more to understand and learn how to apply. If this has whet your appetite and you would like to know more, Click Here and sign up for an online theory course.