Besides crossing and approaching, the
other situation addressed by the Navigation
Rules is overtaking. When you’re approaching another boat from astern, sound one
short blast if you’ll be overtaking on its
starboard side, two if you’ll be overtaking
on its port side. While you can’t be sure
your signals have been understood, signaling has the advantage in any situation of
getting the other skipper’s attention. (If
you respond to another vessel’s signal,
respond with the same signal or the danger
signal — never respond with a contradictory signal.) You can also try contacting the
boat’s skipper on your VHF. The overtaking boat will be the give-way vessel, even
if it passes to the right and moves into the
other boat’s danger zone. Finally, to save
aggravation and possible injury, both boats
should slow down to reduce their wakes
until the overtaking boat is safely clear.
Bob Adriance is Editor of Seaworthy, the
BoatU.S. Marine Insurance damage-avoidance
publication, which is free to all BoatU.S.
insureds. For an insurance quote, call
1-800-283-2883 or apply online at www.
BoatUS.com. Also, follow Seaworthy on
click “Like” for a weekly stream of practical
damage avoidance and safety tips.
THE ART OF TAKING BEARINGS,
AND SURVIVING A CROSSING SITUATION
Two explanations that are often given in collision claims that we see at BoatU.S.
Marine Insurance: “Uh, I thought he was going to pass in front,” and “Uh, I thought he
would pass astern,” both of which indicate that the skipper didn’t have a clue how to take
bearings or, for that matter, how to avoid a collision. Let’s fix that right here, right now.
Even if you’re an experienced skipper, it’s not hard to occasionally misjudge the
speed of another boat, especially when it’s still a safe distance away. Rather than
make a series of last-second maneuvers, which don’t always work, you can use a
hand-bearing compass or binoculars with a hand-bearing compass to assess the risk
of collision. If your boat’s speed and heading are constant and the compass bearings
are moving forward, the other boat should pass ahead. If the bearings are moving
aft, the other boat should pass astern. The farther the bearings move, the farther
away the two boats should be when they cross. A series of bearings that remain
constant, or nearly constant, indicate that the two boats are converging on a collision
course. More experienced skippers have learned to choose a convenient object on the
boat, such as a stanchion or a winch, that lines up with the approaching vessel; if it
remains in line with the reference object, the two vessels are on a collision course.
Don’t take chances. When in doubt, if yours is the give-way vessel, head
for the other boat’s stern. If yours is the stand-on vessel, be prepared to alter
course, anyway, lest the skipper on the give-way vessel takes the “Uh, I thought
we were going to pass ...” approach to avoiding collisions. — B.A.