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United States Power Squadrons. Chapter 5 Rules of the Road. Learning Objectives. This chapter based on: The one Minute Guide to the Nautical Rules of the Road by Charlie Wing

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united states power squadrons

United States Power Squadrons

Chapter 5 Rules of the Road

learning objectives
Learning Objectives
  • This chapter based on:
    • The one Minute Guide to the Nautical Rules of the Roadby Charlie Wing
      • It is intended to serve as a reference and acquaint you with boating rules and as the primer for the more extensive study of Navigation Rules.
wing s book
Wing’s Book
  • Part 1 – What every boater needs to know
    • Part 2 – rules for reference
preview of rules of the road
Preview of Rules of the Road
  • Three topics:
      • Navigation Rules
      • Navigation Lights
      • Sound Signals
the rules make sense
The Rules Make Sense
  • Rules intended to prevent collisions at sea
    • Proscribe responsibilities for each vessel
    • Generally, place the burden on the more maneuverable vessel
two sets of rules
Two Sets of Rules
  • International Regulations for Preventing Collision at Sea (COLREGS)
  • Inland Rules to Navigation (U.S.)
      • Very little difference between the two
      • COLREGS apply outside Demarcation Line
      • Both are included in Wing’s book
        • Added Inland Rule language is italicized
  • International rules (COLREGS) apply:
    • to all vessels upon the high seas and all waters connected to the high seas and navigable by seagoing vessels.
  • US Inland rules apply:
    • on the Great lakes, Western Rivers, waterways, and waters inside the Demarcation Line
  • Everyone having to do with the vessel operations is responsible for:
      • rule compliance
      • using caution
      • good sense
      • good seamanship
      • immediate danger avoidance
  • Power Driven Vessel:any watercraft usable to transport on water – including seaplane
  • Power-driven Vessel:propelled in whole or in part by machinery.
  • Sailing Vessel:propelled by sail alone.
  • Seaplane:aircraft which can maneuver on water.
  • Vessel not under command (NUC):Vessel unable to maneuver due to some exceptional circumstances
definitions cont
Definitions cont.
  • Vessel Engaged in Fishing:vessel fishing with equipment that restricts maneuverability (nets, trawls, etc.)
  • Vessel Constrained by Draft:a power driven vessel which, because of her draft in relations to the depth and width of navigable water, is severely restricted in ability to deviate from the course she is following (COLREGS only).
  • Vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver:vessel which, due to her nature of her work, cannot maneuver easily.
definitions cont1
Definitions cont.
  • Underway:vessel not anchored, grounded, or otherwise attached to shore. Includes vessels dead in water and not making way.
  • In sight:seen with the eyes.
  • Restricted Visibility:any atmospheric condition reducing visibility.
  • Stand-on vessel:vessel obligated to maintain course & speed.
  • Give-way vessel:vessel obligated to keep out of way of other.
look out
  • Every vessel shall at all times maintain a properlook-outby sight, hearing and installed electronic equipment.
  • Skipper appoints a separate look-out if there is more than one person aboard.
safe speed
Safe Speed
  • Requires every vessel proceed at asafe speedto avoid collisions under existing conditions and circumstances
      • Visibility and weather
      • Background lights
      • Traffic
      • Maneuverability
      • Current
      • Navigation hazards
      • Limitations
risk of collision p16 wing
Risk of Collision (p16 Wing)
  • converging on a constant relative bearing…
  • results in a collision
  • remember skippers must avoid collision
avoiding collision
Avoiding Collision
  • Rules designed to avoid collisions
  • Define actions of 2 boats encountering each other
  • Depends upon
    • Their relative positions
    • The type of boats
relative position
Relative Position
  • Overtaking
  • Meeting
  • Crossing
overtaking p 24 wing
Overtaking (p 24 Wing)
  • Overtaking vessel
    • Comes from within 135° arc of stern
    • You Stand-on
    • They Give-Way
  • Both boats use sound or VHF signals agree to passage
  • The overtaking boat is burdened to safely steer clear
meeting head on power
Meeting Head-on (Power)
  • Power-driven vessels meeting head-on
    • Both are Give-Way vessels
    • Both should alter course to starboard and pass port-to-port
    • Sound or VHF to signal agreement on which side
  • Exception: Great Lakes and Western Rivers
    • Downbound have right-of-way over upbound boats
power vessels crossing
Power Vessels Crossing
  • Boat from starboard
    • You Give-Way
  • Boat from port
    • You Stand-on
  • Exception: Great Lakes, Western Rivers
    • Crossing vessels must Give-Way to both upbound and downbound vessels
  • Not under Power
  • Opposite Tacks
    • Port Tack: Give-Way
  • Same Tack
    • Windward: Give-Way
  • Downwind
    • Port Tack: Give-Way
  • If uncertain
    • Give-Way
pecking order revisited
Pecking Order - revisited
  • Different vessel types
    • The pecking order determines which vessel is give-way
    • Any vessel down the list is the give-way vessel
    • The pecking order is determined by the relative maneuverability of the two vessels
  • The give-way vessel must keep out of the way of the other vessel
vessels crossing
Vessels Crossing
  • Two power vessels approach, the one on the port side
  • of the other is the GIVE-WAY vessel.
  • Power vessel GIVES WAY to sailing vessel
fog situation
Fog Situation
  • In or near restricted visibility
    • Slow to safe speed
    • Post a lookout
    • Sound fog signals
narrow channel
Limited room to maneuver

Stay out of narrow channels and fairways

‘…vessel less than 20m …shall not impede passage of vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway.”

In narrow channel:

Stay on the starboard side

Do not cross if interfering with a confined vessel

Do not anchor in a channel

Sound a prolonged blast approaching a bend or obstruction

Narrow Channel
traffic separation
Traffic Separation
  • Traffic separation schemes (TSS)
    • Inbound and outbound separated traffic lanes
    • one-way lanes for large ships
    • Magenta color on charts
  • Inland Rules: Vessel traffic services
communications sounds
Communications Sounds
  • When maneuvering action is required to avoid collision
    • vessels must use sound signals to communicate their intentions
    • Use VHF Marine channel 13
  • Restricted visibility signals
overtaking narrow channel
Overtaking–Narrow Channel

Agreement required before action

I intend/propose* overtaking you on your:


vessels overtaking
Vessels Overtaking

2 Blasts

Leave the stand-on vessel on your starboard

2 Blasts

Leave the stand-on vessel on your starboard

1 Blast

Leave the stand-on vessel on your port side

1 Blast

Leave the stand-on vessel on your port side

light patterns
Light Patterns



  • Rules
    • specify colors
    • arcs of visibility
    • by vessel type
  • Three purposes
    • Alert other vessels
      • your presence
      • relative location
    • Indicate information
      • your vessel’s size
      • course, and type
    • Assist the skipper
      • properly apply Navigation Rules



vhf radio radiotelephone act
Questions regarding vessel intentions – call on CH13; no reply use CH16

Security Broadcast Systems – monitor CH13

Intl Rules do not allow use of VHF radio in lieu of sound signals

VHF Radio – Radiotelephone Act
signals to attract attention
Signals to Attract Attention
  • Any vessel may make light or sound signals that can not be mistaken… to attract attention of another vessel…
  • Note: Inland Rules allow use of strobes
distress signals
Distress Signals
  • Gun or explosive signal
  • Continuous sound device
  • Red star rockets or shells
  • Morse Code: “SOS”
  • Radio: “MAYDAY”
  • Signal Flag
  • onboard flames
  • Orange smoke
  • EPIRB or transponder
  • High intensity white flashing light (Inland Rules)

Rules of the Road

Chapter 5

federal navigation regulations
Federal Navigation Regulations
  • COLREGS (International Navigation Rules) • 33 CFR 80 - COLREGS Demarcation Lines • 33 CFR 81 - 72 COLREGS: Implementing Rules • 33 CFR 82- 72 COLREGS: Interpretive Rules
  • Inland Navigation Rules• 33 CFR 84 - Annex I: Positioning and technical details of lights and shapes• 33 CFR 85 - Annex II: Additional signals for fishing vessels fishing in close proximity• 33 CFR 86 - Annex III: Technical details of sound signal appliances• 33 CFR 87 - Annex IV: Distress Signals• 33 CFR 88 - Annex V: Pilot Rules• 33 CFR 90 - Inland Navigation Rules: Interpretive Rules
  • Regattas and Marine Parades • 33 CFR 100 - Safety of Life on Navigable Waters. Provides effective control over regattas and marine parades conducted on the navigable waters of the United States so as to insure safety of life in the regatta or marine parade area.
maneuvering warning signals
Maneuvering & Warning Signals

Signal Meaning Number of Blasts

  • I intend to alter course to starboard 1 Short Blast

And pass you on my Port Side (1-2 Seconds)

  • I intend to turn to Port and pass you

on my Starboard Side 2 Short Blasts

  • My engines are running astern 3 Short Blasts

I am in reverse and backing

  • There is danger in what you

Intend to do.

I do not agree with your intentions. 5 or more Short Blasts

I’m sounding the danger Signal.

  • I am departing my berth or mooring 1 Prolonged Blast

I am approaching a channel bend (4-6 Seconds)

or intervening obstruction

recognizing vessels in special circumstances
Vessels Engaged in Dredgingor other underwater maneuvers display 3 all-round lights. Recognizing Vessels In Special Circumstances
  • Vessels Engaged In Divingare restricted in ability to maneuver. If divers are free swimming, the vessel is not restricted.


meeting head on1

Anytime you have

to turn in an





Meeting Head on

Neither vessel has right of way. Both vessels must sound

one blast and turn to starboard passing port to port