Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: San Francisco
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Questions about standoff distance and narrow channels
Five Cal20s were racing today inside the breakwater of our harbor. It's a pretty large anchorage and we were fairly bunched up heading on a broad reach, winding our way through the boats when the Harbor Patrol with its blue lights flashing come toward the first 3 boats from the side. I'm thinking they plan to stop us but that doesn't make any sense. At the point I am starting to get near (probably about 50 feet away), they turn to circle a moored boat and call for its captain. They also yell at us (and the others) as we pass saying "when you see this blue light flashing, you must stay away 500 feet!" Did we hear them right? I've searched a bit and cannot find anything that says how far we need to be. If it is actually 500 feet, that's ridiculous because it would have put us practically outside the breakwater.
Here's another question. In looking around for the answer to the part above, I see that Seattle's Harbor Patrol regulations state, "Sailboats under sail do not have the right of way in narrow channels." Is this specific to Seattle waters or is this a USCG requirement? We often sail inside the inner breakwater, which has a very narrow channel so lots of tacking. We share this space with commercial fishing vessels, cabin cruisers, kayakers and runabouts though it's never excessive. We've not had any issues, so far, but I am curious about who has ROW between a motor vessel and sailing vessel in a narrow channel?
It would be great to hear your thoughts on these.
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