Join Date: Apr 2010
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Re: Colregs Definition of Power Driven Vessel
I agree that technically without the transmission in gear, you are not a power-driven vessel. But then that would make a powerboat that is likewise running their engine, but is out of gear, a boat adrift. This also comes with different colreg requirements.
Boaters observe others and make determinations based on what they can see. If I see a powerboat, I can only assume they are a power-driven vessel, which comes with different colreg demands for me. If I see a sailboat underway without sails up, I too assume it is a power-driven vessel. If I see a sailboat with sails up, but moving in a way that sails cannot account for, or I can see the engine water exhaust coming out, I assume it is a power-driven vessel.
This, btw, is why the colregs also require boats to fly both night and day signals to indicate the state of their propulsion. Night requires lights. Days require day shapes. Of course, this latter tool is virtually unheard of in North America (at least in my experience).
Point is, other boats can see signs that you are running an engine, and will then have to assume you are a power-driven vessel. There's no way for other boaters to see if your transmission is in gear, so as a matter of practical application, if your engine is on, the most reasonable assumption for others is that you are under power.
Since the colregs require everyone to take appropriate action to avoid collisions (there is no "right of way", for example), it means no one is devoid or responsibility. Given that other boats will have to assume you are under power if they can perceive your engine is running, I bet the courts would not accept this 'out of gear' argument.
Why go fast, when you can go slow.
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