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  #1  
Old 08-03-2008
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Who has the right of way?

This weekend I was Southbound on the Intracoastal waterway, waiting for a bridge opening here in Ft. Lauderdale in my 35' Endeavour sailboat and after about 20 min's a motor yacht approx 125' approaches on the other side of the bridge, North bound. Just as the bridge was about to open I heard on the radio some chatter but did not realize it was the North bound vessel telling everyone he was going through first and everyone else needed to back off until he was clear - he was on channel 9, as I still was. As the bridge started to open, I was moving toward the bridge from about 100ft back, as I approached he started to move also and continued toward me, allowing me to only squeak by and then hanging off his bridge yelling and jumping up and down and sounding off his horn repeatedly. After I went through, a small boat passed and said that I had the right of way. The same 125' motor yacht got on the radio and said I did not have the right of way and that I ignored his radio announcement and that I was under 20 metres etc and I need to go back to sailing school etc... Where can I find the "rules of the road" pertaining to right of way at bridge openings? Thansk, Robert
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Old 08-03-2008
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Which way was the current? The boat going with the current has right of way over boats going against the current.
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Old 08-03-2008
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This link might help.....Helpful read.

Rule 9: Narrow Channels
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Old 08-03-2008
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A 125 footer also might have draft issues. The 'Ditch' isn't necessarily the deepest piece of water around, and he might have needed to stay in the center of the channel.

Chances are he announced his intentions were announced on VHF 16 as a 'SECURITY' message. I've been up and down through there quite a few times, and it's usually busy. I usually leave my main VHF on channel 9 with a handheld on 16 just to make sure I'm not missing something.

Craig is right about the 'downstream' vessel having the right of way, too. The catch in FTL is that there are also big cross currents from all of the little canals.

BTW, as I was heading to Lauderdale Marine Center--which is nearly at I-95 on the New River, I was following a chain of motor yachts. Two of them were well over 200 feet long and had tugs bow and stern steering them. The lead boat was a 240 footer, and he was calling ahead for the bridges, letting them know there were a string of boats with a following current and needed timely openings. That was the only time I ever heard a 56' sailboat called 'small fry'. But I was. I was 'Tail-End Charlie' and took care of thanking the bridge operators as I followed the big guys through.

FWIW, the bridge operators were very courteous and prompt, and warned the 'upstream' traffic that there was a 'train' of 'downstream' boats and that we had the right of way because of marginal control.

The biggest headache there is the 17th Street Causeway Bridge, which has timed openings. The motor yachts can back & fill to maintain their positions, but most sailboats don't like to just sit still in a current, so things can get rather exciting in that area, particularly on the north side where there isn't much room.

The other headache is the junction of the New River and the ICW near the Yacht Club, particularly since there are a couple of ways of getting there, one of them down a very narrow, unmarked cut that locals use.

In any event, you need to be very alert there, and make sure you know the names of the bridges ahead of you, and not wait until you're right on top of them before you find out.

One last thought. In a right of way situation, Tonnage always wins.
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Old 08-03-2008
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I don't believe the "current" factor is at play here. Unless I am mistaken badly, the waterway where this incident occured in is not one on those mentioned in Rule 9 or " 33 CFR 89.25 WATERS SPECIFIED BY THE SECRETARY".

From the OP's initial info, we don't know what direction any current might have been running at time of this incident. In many cases, I have seen fellow boaters accomodate downstream boats out of common sense and courtesy even though they were not operating in waters where such a right of way is specifically given in the rules. I'm sure one of the blanket provisions applies here too!

As this one will likely spawn some discussion, it would be helpful to have more detail of the scenario. Not that some of it matters but it may help to surface all of the misconceptions and points of confusion that abound when boaters begin to discuss these types of questions.

Fortunately we have many very knowledgable folks here who can help us all understand the days events.

Last edited by Whampoa; 08-03-2008 at 02:10 PM.
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added information

Thanks for weighing in , I appreciate the information. Not sure what I can add except that it was the Los Olas bridge and the current was running North. When this motor yacht captain got on the radion after the incident, his whole case was that he made the announcement over the radio and I chose to ignore it (when I did not think it was this bridge but chatter from another boater) which I will be way more observant in the future particularly noting the other boats waiting and the current. What I am getting from the comments so far is that the other boat was right to go first due to his size and the current, I am glad to get the feedback and will reference what one poster directed me to, however the other captains conduct and yelling and screaming, and "squeezing my vessel" etc... was uncalled for and unfortunately seems to be routine between boaters so often here. I believe that my lack of knowledge and experience were the reason for the problem and I am grateful nothing serious resulted from it, but from the postings from what sounds like very experienced sailors, it appears that not everyone on the water knows always exactly what to do in every situation and I am not the only one who is at times a bit unsure or still learning. I will be way more careful in the future and appreciate your help and support and responses, this sailnet is really great (the people who contribute are great) and Paul here locally introduced me to it (not sure of his screen name but has a cuban girlfriend and he is a good guy). Thanks again, I will stay tuned. Robert
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Old 08-03-2008
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You're talking about our esteemed colleague CardiacPaul. Only one guy on here has the Cuban.
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Old 08-03-2008
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I am not familiar with the ICW, but here in Seattle we have numerous bridges and it has always been first arrive-first through. At our locks commercial traffic has priority status but that is a different issue. I have not heard that you can just announce that you are going to be first, without a rule to back it up such as draft, LAM, etc. For what it's worth, I may have done the same as you in this situation, particularly since there is no requirement that you have your radio on, and if you do you are only required to monitor 16 and unless it is different on the ICW, bridges operate on 13.

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Old 08-03-2008
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In situations, like rivers and channels, where the current can be a factor, the vessels which are going downstream generally are given precedence, since it is very easy for them to lose steerage if they have to slow down too much. Then they would be a the mercy of the current...

Out of the downstream heading vessels, it then generally goes first come, first served, unless one of the vessels is constrained by draft or in some other way. Of course, a tug with a large tow should probably take precedence over any recreational craft for safety's sake if nothing else. Wouldn't you rather be upstream of the tug and barges if the tug has a problem???
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Originally Posted by jrd22 View Post
I am not familiar with the ICW, but here in Seattle we have numerous bridges and it has always been first arrive-first through. At our locks commercial traffic has priority status but that is a different issue. I have not heard that you can just announce that you are going to be first, without a rule to back it up such as draft, LAM, etc. For what it's worth, I may have done the same as you in this situation, particularly since there is no requirement that you have your radio on, and if you do you are only required to monitor 16 and unless it is different on the ICW, bridges operate on 13.

John
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

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Old 08-03-2008
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The rules state that on narrow fairways (such as the ICW) that power vessels less then 20 meters (65.6 ft), sailboats are not to impede traffic assending or desending the channel / fairway.
So in affect (if you're less than 20 mt) you did not have the right of way even if you arrived there first. In this case size does matters and 20 meters is the dividing line.
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