Are You The Operator Underway?
The question has been asked in another thread, are you an operator at anchor? The more significant question is, are you the “operator” underway? The answer may surprise you.
There is no question in Canada for any recreational vessel that is not required to have a licensed master. The operator, the person responsible for everything that happens on the vessel and the one who will be blamed if there is a collision, grounding, or injury is the person whose hands are on the wheel. This responsibility shifts as helmsmen are changed. Turn the helm over to a guest , tell them , “Steer straight for that house.”, and, if the boat runs aground and there is an injury, it will be their fault. The guest must have a Canadian recreational vessel operator’s card to legally manipulate the wheel. The only thing you might be held accountable for in this case as an owner might be letting a person without a card steer.
U.S. State jurisdictions are increasingly moving towards this approach, driven by modeling laws after motor vehicles. The overwhelming number of boats they are concerned with are outboards where this actually makes some sense and it is simply beyond legislators and regulators to think about how things might be different on a large cruising boat.
I wrote an article about this and other regulatory foolishness for one of our New England boating magazines. See page 93.
Oops. Sorry. The online archive of the magazine seems to have disappeared. I'll find out if this is temporary or permanent.
Last edited by Roger Long; 07-01-2013 at 03:55 PM.