Chapter 5: Navigation Rules

Chapter Review

Rule of Operator Responsibility:

As a boat operator, it is one's duty to operate the vessel in a reasonable manner. Stay alert and vigilant and respect the water and weather conditions, passengers, fellow boaters, swimmers, divers, and property owners and act in a manner which keeps all as safe as possible.

Maintaining Proper Lookout:

Keeping a proper lookout and operating at a safe speed are the best ways to fulfill the rule of responsibility. Keeping a lookout ensures that one is always aware of what is happening while operating at a safe speed ensures time to act and react in order to avoid a collision or dangerous situations.

Navigation Rules:

There are many navigational rules which may apply depending on the type of vessel one is using, where one is boating, and what types of vessels are nearby. This chapter offered a summary of these rules, but it is important to get a copy of the U.S. Coast Guard's full set of navigational rules to understand the full breadth of these important regulations.

Before moving forward, remember that one is allowed to ignore any navigational rule which will put one or another vessel in direct danger. The most important consideration is to avoid a collision and keep ALL boaters as safe as possible.

Navigation Terms and Definitions:

Some of the most important terms presented in this chapter are sailing vessel and power-driven vessel. A sailing vessel is any vessel using sail power, even if it has an engine. As long the vessel is using its sail to propel itself and not its engine, for that time, it is a sailing vessel. A power-driven vessel is any vessel propelled by an engine.

"Stand-on" vessels are vessels which have the right of way. When approaching or approached by another vessel, a stand-on vessel must maintain its current course and speed. A "give-way" vessel, however, must yield to a stand-on vessel and take early and substantial action to stay clear of the stand-on vessel and avoid a collision.

Collision Avoidance:

Understanding which vessel is the stand-on vessel and which vessel is the give-way vessel and what each should do in a given situation is the best way to avoid a collision. In any situation, when two vessels are approaching one another, there are specific actions that must be taken depending on the vessel.

As an example, when two power-driven boats approach, the boat which is approaching on the port side is deemed the give-way vessel. Therefore, it must take early and substantial action to steer clear and avoid a collision. Remember, whenever a power-driven vessel crosses paths with a sailing vessel, the sailing vessel is always the stand-on vessel unless the sailing vessel is overtaking the power-driven vessel.

Sound Signals and Equipment:

We’ve also learned how to use sound signals, when out on the water, and which signaling equipment is required, by law, to be carried on board. All boats, regardless of size or whether they're powered or unpowered, are required to have some means of making a sound signal. This could include a bell, air horn, or whistle.

One short blast: One wants to pass the other vessel on one's port sides 

Two short blasts: One wants to pass the other vessel on one's starboard sides

When approaching another vessel, use sound signals. If a vessel signals, answer with the same sound signal to confirm understanding of their intent. If one does not understand the intentions, one needs to use the right sound signal to indicate that to fellow boaters.

Narrow Channels, Darkness, and Restricted Visibility

It is important to draw on the knowledge of navigation lights when operating in darkness or restricted visibility. This allows one to determine the type of vessel one is approaching and its path, so one can apply the collision avoidance rules. Using the understanding of navigation lights, proper use of sound signals, and understanding the collision avoidance rules is vital in order to avoid a collision when operating in darkness or restricted visibility.