Navigation rules - page 1

3.1 Definitions

Stand-On & Give-Way

We start with one vital and basic nomenclature. Worldwide, what is commonly and linguistically referred to as "Right of Way" on the land doesn't exist on the water (with the exception of "Racing Rules of Sailing"). Instead, the term "Stand-On" replaces "Right of Way". 

The technical difference then, between Stand-On and Right of Way is that the vessel who is NOT in the Give-Way position must act predictably in the eyes of the Give-Way vessel. I.E. the Stand-On vessel is first required to maintain course and speed (Stand-On) so that the Give-Way vessel can plot a safe crossing course. If collision becomes imminent, the Stand-On vessel is then REQUIRED to take all actions possible to avoid collision. Thus, it is at this point that the Stand-On vessel technically doesn't have "rights" over the Give-Way vessel and thus the deletion of the term "Right of Way" on the water.

But what is Give-Way? It is clear inside the rules. If you are to Give-Way, you must keep clear of the other vessel and you must not impede its ability to continue to safely operate on its passage.

So to summarize this then: in any situation, you will either be the Stand-On vessel or the Give-Way vessel. If you are the Give-Way vessel you must take visibly obvious and early actions to allow the Stand-On vessel to know that by continuing current course and speed there will be no possibility of collision. If you are the Stand-On vessel you should initially hold course and speed but it is still your final responsibility to prevent collision.

To the beginner, this new terminology has been baffling as to why the change in language for a seemingly synonymous situation. But the technical difference is valid and should be noted.

Starboard Tack - Port Tack

Only as sailors are we interested in this. It involves only the interaction between your sailboat and another sailboat. i.e. a power-driven vessel does not care where the wind is coming from and is not required to conform to any rules according to the wind. Since sailboats are driven by the wind they conform to standard navigation rules according to the wind when encountering one another. Since the rules say a port tack boat must Give-Way to a starboard tack boat, we define those terms here. A discussion the application of the rule follows this section.

For now you must learn the definition of a starboard tack and a port tack and how to identify a boat on either.

  • A sailboat is deemed to be on a port tack when the wind is coming over the port (left) side of the boat.

  • A sailboat is deemed to be on a starboard tack when the wind is coming over the starboard (right) side of the boat.

The word “vessel”: includes every description of water craft, including nondisplacement craft and seaplanes, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water

The term “power-driven vessel”: means any vessel propelled by machinery.

The term “sailing vessel”: means any vessel under sail provided that propelling machinery, if fitted, is not being used. As soon as you have your engines on, even if you have you sails up, you are a power-driven vessel according to the rules. No tricking allowed. 

The term “vessel engaged in fishing”: means any vessel fishing with nets, lines, trawls, or other fishing apparatus which restricts maneuverability, but does not include a vessel fishing with trolling lines or other fishing apparatus which do not restrict maneuverability.

The word “seaplane”: includes any aircraft designed to maneuver on the water.

The term “vessel not under command”: means a vessel which through some exceptional circumstance is unable to maneuver as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel.

he term “vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver”: means a vessel which from the nature of her work is restricted in her ability to maneuver as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel; vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver include, but are not limited to: (i) a vessel engaged in laying, servicing or picking up a navigation mark, submarine cable or pipeline; (ii) a vessel engaged in dredging, surveying or underwater operations; (iii) a vessel engaged in replenishment or transferring persons, provisions or cargo while underway; (iv) a vessel engaged in the launching or recovery of aircraft; (v) a vessel engaged in mineclearance operations; (vi) a vessel engaged in a towing operation such as severely restricts the towing vessel and her tow in their ability to deviate from their course.

The term “vessel constrained by her draft”: means a power-driven vessel which, because of her draft in relation to the available depth and width of navigable water is severely restricted in her ability to deviate from the course she is following. (i) The word “underway” means that a vessel is not at anchor, or made fast to the shore, or aground. (j) The words “length” and “breadth” of a vessel means her length overall and greatest breadth. (k) Vessels shall be deemed to be in sight of one another only when one can be observed visually from the other.

The term “restricted visibility”: means any condition in which visibility is restricted by fog, mist, falling snow, heavy rainstorms, sandstorms or any other similar causes.

The word “underway”: means that a vessel is not at anchor, or made fast to the shore, or aground.