Naples Sail and Power Squadron- Serving the cause of safe boating through education.
Safe boating includes knowing the rules of the road
When my wife and I purchased a 22 foot sailboat in 1962 we were thrilled to sail off the shores of Westport, Connecticut. We were having a grand time when another boater waved their arms to tell us I was on a shoal loaded with rocks. We hit the rocks and went home. We then realized we should join the Power Squadron and learn something about boating. We joined the Westchester Power Squadron in 1962.
Safe Boating means having a chart aboard to be able to tell the Coast Guard where you are in an emergency. The chart also tells what rules of the road apply. When the shore is shown, the chart shows you a “line of demarcation”.
The Rules of the Road called “COLREGS” will apply on the ocean side of the line. The Inland Unified Rules apply on the land side of the line.
All this seems easy. It is. Coming up with the rules to prevent collision was a big job. It is an interesting story.
When we joined the Power Squadron, we learned that the rules of the road are a great subject. For example, you’re powering offshore at night and spot a white light about 30 degrees off the port bow. The light grows to two, narrowly higher – then a green – still at about 30 degrees.
The steady bearing has your undivided attention, for according to the rules (not to mention your health) if you question whether a collision situation exists, assume it does. What is their obligation under COLREGS – what is yours? You have a copy of the rules aboard, but is this the time to dig it out, fumble with a flashlight and look it up, potentially wrecking your night vision in the process?
An interesting story follows. It is by Jim Austin, from Ocean Navigator, Rules of the Road, issue #1 1/22/02.
International rules for preventing collision evolved out of those that had been developed independently during the mid-1800s by France, Britain and the United States. In 1889, the first international conference of maritime nations was held in Washington, D.C.., at which those preexisting rules were modified and subsequently adopted by member nations. Adopted by the United States in 1889, they were made effective in 1897.
Despite subsequent attempts to update the 1889 Rules, little was accomplished until 1948 at the International Conference on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) when some changes were adopted, becoming effective in 1954. The 1960 SOLAS conference made minor revisions, becoming effective in 1965. Finally the conference in 1972 accomplished major revisions, which became effective in July 1977 as the Regulations to Prevent Collisions at Sea, now referred to as the “72 COLREGS.” Several amendments have been adopted since. And there we stand!
As for the Unified (or Inland) rules, if you think you have it rough trying to learn them, don’t complain. Prior to 1980, collision prevention rules for inland waters were a conglomeration of regulations that must have made navigation an automatic migraine. Statutory rules existed for (a) inland waters, (b) “western” rivers and (c) the Great Lakes; in addition, Coast Guard pilot rules existed for each of those bodies. Not to be excluded, the Army Corps of Engineers supplemented Coast Guard Great Lakes pilot rules (which themselves supplemented the statutory Great Lakes rules); and finally there was the 1940 Motorboat Act. So, eight sets of rules. (This looked liked something only the IRS could come up with!)
Attempts to make sense of the mess were continually defeated by local interests until success with the International Rules in 1972 spurred action. What resulted was the Inland Navigation Rules Act of 1980, which became effective December ’81 (March ’83 on the Great Lakes), as the Unified Rules. Relatively small but significant differences between the ’72 COLREGS and the latter remain. The Western Rivers Rules should be viewed as specific modifications of the Unified Rules and not as an entirely separate set.
Here are some questions to remind you to call 239 643-7202 for course information.
If you are following the rules of the road but you are about to have a collision what should you do?
Avoid the collision even if it means breaking the Rules of the Road.
If another vessel is approaching you and its bearing is constant, what is likely to happen? There is a danger of collision.
When speaking of a weather front, what is meant? It is the boundary between two dissimilar air masses.
If you set off distress flares and see 3 white flares in the distance, what does that mean?
Help is on the way.
All of our columns stress that you are invited to call the squadron at 239-643-2702 for information about our courses for the summer for you and your family.
We urge you to take advantage of our courses. While our instruction is free, there is a charge for the published course material used within our different courses. The text booklets become the property of the student and make excellent future reference material.