Thanks for your posts so far. Faster is right, that we were sailing in BC coastal waters, not a harbour, but a channel that was more narrow than most of that area. To respond to the request for more information:
1) We were sailing north with full sails up, at speed about 6 knots, the fishing boat was coming south on our port side, with about 500 feet or more between us (a bit hard to guess exact distance).
2) It was daylight with good visibility, slight chop/waves, breezy--just a really good sailing day.
3) The fishing boat was coming down the middle of the channel, so I had already headed off further to starboard to give more room, and thought there was plenty of space between us.
4) The fishing boat was travelling under power, with a small bow wave. It was a fairly traditional looking fishing boat--looked a bit like a tugboat, with the metal poles (outriggers?--I don't know much about fishing
) not quite vertical on either side of the boat (ie. at about 11:00 and 1:00 position on port and starboard. There was no visible sign of netting or of fishing activity underway (to my untrained eye), but I may not know what to look for. There were no buoys or markers in the water.
5) The fishing boat and our boat were the only boats in sight.
6) I was on the helm and watching the fishing boat quite carefully for any sign of anything--he did not change speed or course, but he did come forward on his boat to sound his horn 5 times (I know that means possible danger) and wave his arm and yell something. I interpreted that to mean that he thought we were too close, and immediately turned hard to starboard to create as much additional room as possible. He acknowledged that with a wave and continued on his way. At no time did he change speed or direction.
7) I didn't interpret any of his actions as malicious or rude, but was puzzled that he thought we were too close when I thought we had left him plenty of room (I think about 500 feet or more, enough that I could see him but not make out any facial features, nor understand what he shouted--but close enough that I could hear his air horn and that he had yelled something at us).
So mainly I am wondering, for future, how much room fishing boats need, how to tell if they are actively fishing or just motoring along, and if this varies according to the type of fishing underway.
I can tell the difference between these fisherman and recreational fisherman, and also those working on crab pots, so my question is more about a fishing boat underway as outlined above.
Thanks again for your replies and for any additional thoughts on this.