Originally Posted by Enhydras
you guys do realise that a vessel under tow is limited in its ability to maneuver and has right of way over a sailing vessel?
rule 3 definition says a tow is "restricted in ability to maneuver" when (see subsec. (g)(vi) "engaged in a towing operation such as severely restrict the towing vessel and her tow in their ability to deviate from their course".
So, if there's deep water around and hence no channel or TSS to restrict the tow, it's got to be VERY un-maneuverable to have the right of way over all other vessels under Rule 18; and, is required to show ball-diamond-ball by day and red over white over red by night (though don't count on this, some don't show the signals).
Just having a big barge on a wire isn't *necessarily* "restricted" legally under Rule 18. But that said, it is still a slow maneuvering flotilla and a judgement call whether Rule 18 (b)(2) applies, so don't assume the tow doesn't have the right of way, and you do. You may indeed be right legally when the admiralty judge says so long after the collision, but "dead right" so it's your heirs in court, which lessens the personal satisfaction of being right considerably. Discretion by small vessels is the better part of valor, and giving him the right of way is never the wrong choice provided you don't confuse him in the process.
So I'm being picky about the "restricted" rule here. I'd rather sail with you any day and be possibly "alive wrong" about who's privileged, than correct but no longer around to type about it ashore ;-)