From time to time, the U.S. Coast Guard issues helpful advice about safety issues. In a document dated Jan. 9, 2014, the CG writes “In a recent offshore regatta, numerous sailboats experienced steering system and other failures which required assistance and/or rescue by the U. S. Coast Guard when a weather system stalled offshore creating higher than expected sea states and winds. The Coast Guard responded using an array of assets to render assistance.” This one-page PDF has a handy checklist of reminders about preparing your boat for an offshore trip; download it at http://tiny.cc/gn4o9w
As defined in Rule 3(g) of the Navigation Rules, a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver (also called a RAM vessel) is one “which from the nature of her work is restricted in her ability to maneuver as required by [the Navigation Rules], and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel.” The definition applies to both power-driven and sailing vessels. RAM vessels display the dayshape of a black ball-diamond-ball in a vertical line. At night RAM vessels will display three lights in a vertical line: red-white-red. They may also display additional lights and dayshapes, depending on the nature of their work.
Some examples of RAM vessels include a vessel laying, servicing or picking up a navigation aid, submarine cable, or pipeline; a dredge; a vessel engaged in surveying or underwater operations; a vessel engaged in replenishment, cargo or personnel transfer while underway; a towing vessel with a tow that severely restricts the towing vessel and her tow from deviating from their course; a vessel launching or recovering aircraft; a mine-clearing vessel.
The required lights and dayshapes for these vessels are found in Rule 27 (b-g). Rule 35 prescribes the sound signals for RAM vessels in restricted visibility. The rules are complicated, and if you operate where any of these vessels might be found you need to learn the rules. The text is available at www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=navRulesContent. See also Mariner’s Guide, p. 330. Buy a plastic reference card with lights, shapes, and sound signals to keep near the helm.
Priscilla Travis spends more than 110 days each year on the water, takes photos, and writes about nautical topics.