Know Your Right-of-Way on the Water

right-of-way on the water, Know Your Right-of-Way on the Water

Who has the “Right-of-Way?”

Hierarchy of right-of-way is presented here; from highest right-of-way to the lowest right-of-way. I think of it as a totem pole; with the vessel with the most right-of-way at the top, and the lowest at the bottom. Here goes!

right-of-way on the water, Know Your Right-of-Way on the Water

Overtaken Vessel

This vessel has top priority. If you are fast enough to pass someone, then you are the “give-way” vessel; the one you are overtaking is the “stand on,” meaning they should stand on course and speed, and you move around them.

right-of-way on the water, Know Your Right-of-Way on the Water

NUC Not Under Command

Remember that “A” is the first letter of the alphabet, and has three sides, so, Aground, Adrift, Anchored. Other than being overtaken, Not Under Command is the first on the totem pole. Any of those vessels can’t give way even if they wanted!

right-of-way on the water, Know Your Right-of-Way on the Water

Restricted Ability to Manuever

Like an aircraft carrier that needs a mile to make a turn! Any vessel, that, due to it’s design or work, cannot move easily to avoid others. 

right-of-way on the water, Know Your Right-of-Way on the Water

Constrained by Draft

The cruise ship in the channel, the sailboat in a small channel with jet skis around… Technically, this is for International Waters, not Inland, however, it’s followed by most as a courtesy even inland to the vessel limited by her draft.

right-of-way on the water, Know Your Right-of-Way on the Water

Fishing / Trawling

Not jon boat, dog, and cooler, but actual fishing as in dragging a lot of nets and big tackle – nets, lines, trawls – fishing apparatus that precludes quick maneuvering.

Not to be confused with trolling, which is dragging a few lines and allows fur turns and does not actually restrict their ability to maneuver! This is commercial endeavor; serious people earning their tough living; not million-dollar sport fishing machines that can turn on a dime.

right-of-way on the water, Know Your Right-of-Way on the Water

Sailing

Next to the bottom of the totem pole of right-of-ways, and, sailboat are not even sailing all the time, so… only when they are actually sailing and not overtaking anyone at all, or dealing with any of the aforementioned situations.

right-of-way on the water, Know Your Right-of-Way on the Water

Vessel Under Power

Vessels under power. Least right-of-way

right-of-way on the water, Know Your Right-of-Way on the Water

Pedestrians of the Sea?

Then there’s those underpowered  or manually-propelled cases; paddle boards and kayaks and people doing yoga on floating planks.

I like to think of them as pedestrians; somewhere between fishing and sailing. They can’t really move easily…

What to read next: US Aids to Navigation – Red Right Returning

right-of-way on the water, Know Your Right-of-Way on the Water

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