It’s a simple and important definition: a vessel is underway when it is NOT at anchor, aground, or made fast to the shore. Dragging anchor or drifting is underway; engine on or off doesn’t matter. When a vessel is underway the Navigation Rules apply. As soon as you lift the anchor out of the seabed (or it drags), or the boat starts floating after being aground, or you cast off the mooring or dock lines your boat is underway. Lots can happen before the boat is moving under control – you’re still bringing up the anchor, you need to turn hard to one side as the boat floats free from a shoal, you have to turn sharply as you leave a dock – the Navigation Rules apply if there is another vessel near you so that risk of collision may exist. Analyze the situation and vessel traffic near you before getting underway.
Priscilla Travis spends more than 110 days each year on the water, takes photos, and writes about nautical topics.