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mrsadm 05-22-2008 03:46 PM

Right of Way questions from a newbie
Is there a good resource online for right of way rules?

On our lake we have college rowing teams that I have tried to steer around but sometimes there are four teams abreast and where do I go?

Also wondered about canoes as both sailboat and canoe are not powered.

sailingdog 05-22-2008 04:16 PM

If you are dealing with a channel and are constrained by your draft, the human powered vessels are supposed to give way.... Granted a small sailboat isn't a ship, but in shallower waters that you often see rowing shells in, it could easily become a case of constrained by draft.

AFAIK, the COLREGs don't specifically mention human powered vessels, since they were originally developed for regulating the movement of ships at sea, which doesn't generally include human-powered craft of any sort.

If you are overtaking them, you are the give-way vessel, since you are overtaking, and normal overtaking rules apply. Other situations would probably depend on the exact circumstances.

nolatom 05-22-2008 05:41 PM

Funny, I grew up thinking a boat "under oars" had right of way over a sailboat, but the rules don't mention rowboats.

I think the reasoning behind the rules (unless otherwise stated) is that the more-maneuveable craft should yield to the less-maneuverable one. So 5-knot sailboat should yield to 2-knot rowboat. But your 12-knot crew shells? I don't know, and I used to play that roulette on the Charles River. I'd say, head up, luff, or head the same way they are and put your stern to them and let them steer around you, since you're then being overtaken. Otherwise, you fake each other out and those shell bows are plenty sharp.

sailingdog 05-22-2008 06:25 PM

A rowboat may be more maneuverable than a depends on the situation.

ericsmith3d 05-22-2008 08:22 PM


If you are dealing with a channel and are constrained by your draft, the human powered vessels are supposed to give way...
Rule 3

(h) The term "vessel constrained by her draft" means a power driven vessel which because of her draft in relation to the available depth and width of navigable water is severely restricted in her ability to deviate from the course she is following.

Note, this seems to exclude sail boats not under power.


Is there a good resource online for right of way rules?
boatsafe dot com/nauticalknowhow/boating/colregs dot html

as well as many others.

bubb2 05-22-2008 10:34 PM

run them down and let the courts figure it out. Or just be nice and stay away from them.

sailingdog 05-22-2008 11:20 PM


Play nice with the rowing shells... :)

Plumper 05-23-2008 01:09 AM

My understanding of the rules (both inland and international) is that the term vessel includes any vessel used for transportation on the water including row boats. The rules are the same for them as any other boat. The problem is they very likely don't know the rules. I would keep an air horn handy and use it when required. In our neck of the woods the challenge is ocean kayakers. They often cross from island to island in a line creating a huge obstacle for any other mariners. They don't realize that they have gone from being one 18 foot speed bump to a 180 foot speed bump (assuming 10 kayaks). Early and liberal use of an air horn is warranted and encouraged.

Waugh 05-23-2008 09:55 AM

I found this helpful. Click the green "Begin" for the flash demo.

chucklesR 05-23-2008 10:18 AM

Funny, I always took that as the row boat/kayak etc was a boat maneuvering under power - albeit not a power driven vessel which specifically is spelled as a driven by machinery - and as far more maneuverable than a sailboat as it can steer in the full 360 degrees.

I saw nothing in rules 1 through 18 to disavow that opinion.

Not to mention, much like a freighter, if I hit one I won't be the one bleeding afterwards (i.e., right of way = might of way)

I think what it comes down to is if they don't move, you must take all possible and reasonable actions to avoid a collision. Then drop sails and yell at the idiot on the loud hailer :)

Common courtesy says the rowing teams etc.. including races should be given right of way much like we'd want on the race course. I really hate it when a non-race participant come sailing through a race course on starboard and makes even one turn off course.

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