The Navigation Rules apply to all vessels on the high seas “and in all waters connected to the high seas that are navigable by seagoing vessels.” All vessels that are propelled by machinery, such as personal watercraft, small outboard-powered boats, a canoe with an electric trolling motor, etc. must observe the rules for power-driven vessels. Sailing vessels under sail alone must observe the rules for encountering other sailing vessels. If a sailboat under sail overtakes a power-driven vessel, it must stay out of the way of the power-driven vessel. When a sailboat turns on its outboard motor or engine, even with the sails up, it becomes a power-driven vessel. These are just a few of the rules which all boaters who operate on the waters where the rules apply must learn. There’s a lot to study: first learn Rules 12-18, Conduct of Vessels in Sight of One Another, and Rule 34, Sound Signals for Vessels in Sight of One Another. When you’ve mastered these rules, move on to required lights and dayshapes (Rules 23-31), and then study Rule 35 for sound signals in restricted visibility. Keep a plastic reference card with lights, dayshapes, and sound signals near the helm to help you remember. The text of the rules is available at www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=navRulesContent.
Priscilla Travis spends more than 110 days each year on the water, takes photos, and writes about nautical topics.