Chapter 5: Navigation Rules

Navigation Rules: Overtaking

Whenever a power-driven vessel is overtaking another power-driven vessel the vessel which is being overtaken is the stand-on vessel. Remember, the stand-on vessel has the right of way and must maintain speed and course.


In this example, Vessel A would be the give-way vessel. That means Vessel A must take action to avoid a collision as it passes around Vessel B. This rule also applies to non-powered vessels. The vessel overtaking is the give-way vessel and the vessel being overtaken is the stand-on vessel.

For additional safety, if two power-driven vessels are interacting, one must also use sound signals to indicate intentions. So, if one wants to pass on their port side, give two short blasts for starboard. This lets the other boater know that one will be passing on their starboard side. The other operator should then return the same signal to indicate they understand and agree.

If one is approaching another vessel close enough from stern to see the other’s stern lights, but not their navigational sidelights, it is assumed one means to overtake them and should act accordingly as the give-way vessel.

Remember, if a boater ever gives five short blasts, it means that they there is no understanding of intentions and it is dangerous to approach without further communications.