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jkimberly 07-16-2009 02:59 PM

Rules of the Road Question
I didn't want to hijack the thread "Stand On Boat, was I right and a jerk" so I started a new thread. That being said . . .

Last weekend the admiral and I were coming back after a long downwind slog from Port Jeff into Milford harbor. We were motoring down the channel into the harbor at pretty close to low tide. Depth in the channel at low tide is about 7-9ft and much less than that to either side - we draw 4ft of water.

There's all sorts of traffic coming into and out of the harbor, two sailboats behind us and a small powerboat in front and a parade of power and sailboats heading out. Everyone is under power. The channel is only about 50ft wide (at best).

So much for the background info . . .

The YC Lasers were ending one of their races and most of the pack was a few minutes behind us but one was overtaking us from the Starboard side. They have no motors. The admiral was getting mighty nervous as this particular Laser was spitting distance from our Starboard side running wing & wing, passing us - he was just outside the edge of the channel. The respective courses were such that if he continued at present course and speed, he would intersect us at the bows or just miss us forward.

I was in a quandry because as the overtaken boat, we were stand on, we were in a channel and therefore constrained by draft but we were under power. There wasn't a whole lot of room to move over either as a fairly large powerboat coming out was almost upon us. I figured I would "stand on" as long as it was safe to do so but would throttle down (we were doing the 5mph which is top end for us) when it appeared a collision was imminent. At just the last minute before hitting the throttle (he was less than 10' away), he tacked away from us going from wing/wing to port tack, held this for a minute or so, tacked again to Starboard tack and pulled in front of us in the channel with enough distance to be safe(? - 20') then immediately tacked to port. By this time he was well clear of us but for a bit there it was pretty nerve wracking.

So my question . . . how do the other sailors handle a situation similar to this? I think I did OK and was prepared to shutdown/reverse, etc. to avoid a collision and I know that was the correct thing to do but it DID seem as though the other guy should have known better. I had the distinct immpression he felt he had the right of way as he was under sail. Not the first time I've noticed that these Laser sailors from MYC act either entitled or are willing to get REALLY close to other boats.


Mipcar 07-16-2009 03:12 PM

From your description he probably had it all planned in his head how to avoid you, pity he did not communicate it to anyone else.
If you are constrained by draft not a lot you can do, your decision about slowing down was sensible, I would not have stopped in the channel and risked loosing steerage. I think you did all you could do in that case.


AE28 07-16-2009 03:34 PM


I think ya dun good!!!

You were privileged on two accounts:
1. being overtaken
2. constrained by draft

I don't think sail vs. power comes into play here.

So, I think you should have maintained course and speed until you determined a collision was inevitable and then taken the action you did, after which, you should have filed a complaint with whomever is in charge of the waterways in your locale.

You said "entitled" - are you being charitable by not saying "hot dog"?


JohnRPollard 07-16-2009 03:36 PM

My read of the situation you describe is that the Laser was stand-on and you were give-way.

From the sounds of it, you describe a converging course situation, not an overtaking situation.

You expected him to intersect your course and cross your bow if you both continued on your respective courses. In that scenario, it doesn't matter that he had greater speed than you. You were under power, he was under sail. His draft is not much less than yours, so you can't trump him with the "constrained by draft". In any event, nothing about your draft placed a constraint on the speed at which you progressed down the channel.

But regardless of how you parse it, the courteous approach is to give way to vessels under sail when you are under power -- especially an engineless daysailer. In your case, as soon as you realized his course would take him across your bows uncomfortably close (particularly for him!), the proper thing to do would have been to throttle back and allow him to pass ahead well clear. Throttling back to a crawl would only slow your progress up the channel briefly. Even dropping back to 3 knots or so would have opened up a much more comfortable separation as he crossed ahead.

Live and learn. In these situations I never hesitate to ask the skipper of the other boat how they would prefer to proceed or to let them know my plan to alter course and/or speed. I never play chicken with little daysailers.

donradclife 07-16-2009 03:49 PM

My guess is that you have pretty limited sailing experience, as Lasers only have one sail, and thus cannot sail 'wing on wing', and tacking downwind is really called 'gybing'. The Laser racers don't think 10 feet is too close, especially if the boats are on nearly parallel courses.

The reality is that you had the right of way because he was the overtaking vessel. You are not constrained by your draft, because you were in inland waters and were also not displaying the appropriate signal. You are probably not affected by the narrow channel rule, because you are less than 20 meters long.

The Laser avoided you, but if he had lost the wind and slowed down, the right of way would have shifted to him. You should also recognize his limitations--its hard for him to slow down, and he has only a limited space outside the channel before he has draft issues.

Both the rules of the road and common courtesy would suggest that slowing down if necessary would be the best option when trying to share a narrow channel.

Hesper 07-16-2009 04:01 PM

He's a racer. I'll bet you a bottle of your best rum that he was fully in control and knew exactly what he was doing. Communicating his intention to you would have been nice, but there was no risk of collision as long as you held your course. Naturally, you did the prudent thing in being prepared to throttle back.

eleanor 07-16-2009 04:12 PM

Good call. you have right of way. But if you hit him, it's your fault. Slowing down is prudent and thus required, maybe you should have done it more than you did, to anticipate the possibility he was suddenly leeward or hit by backwind or other loss of control and thus rendered maneuvering with difficulty. If practicable, and it sounds like it was, you should have blasted horn 5 short to indicate danger before resorting to altering speed.

JohnRPollard 07-16-2009 04:51 PM

I am puzzled by the suggestions that jkimberly had "right of way", i.e. was stand on-vessel. :confused: :confused: He said:


Originally Posted by jkimberly (Post 505902)
The respective courses were such that if he continued at present course and speed, he would intersect us at the bows or just miss us forward.

I was in a quandry because as the overtaken boat, we were stand on, we were in a channel and therefore constrained by draft but we were under power.

That is a converging course situation, not "overtaken boat." In an overtaking scenario, the faster vessel clear astern will collide with the overtaken vessel at the stern if corrective action is not taken. In that scenario, the slower, overtaken vessel holds its course while the faster vessel steers around it.

In this case, jkimberly was under power in a converging course situation with a vessel under sail. The fact that the Laser's faster speed and the converging course would eventually permit the Laser to cross ahead of jkimberly does not make jkimberly an overtaken vessel. Both boats were arguably constrained by draft, but in any case nothing about jkimberly's draft prevented him from giving way by slowing down.

US27inKS 07-16-2009 05:22 PM

IMO the proper thing to do was to keep a hand on the throttle in case YOU got nervous, then sit back and watch the skilful boat handling. Take a deep breath, and relax.

NCC320 07-16-2009 06:00 PM

Overtaking vs. Crossing

Wouldn't that issue be defined by which sector the Laser was in...if in the forward 225 degree sector (forward to two points abath the beam on either side), it would be crossing. If in the aft 135 degree sector of your boat, he would be overtaking. If the Laser was near the limits of the 135 degree sector, he could still have a converging course that would intercept your boat on a collision course while he would still be the overtaking vessel. Is this not so?

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