RULES OF THE NAUTICAL ROAD
The following is offered as the briefest of summaries of this topic.
Navigation Rules were enacted by Congress to promote safe passage, set requirements for navigation lights and day shapes, steering & sailing rules, sound & distress signals. First International Rules were established in 1889; the most recent are called "72 COLREGS" by the Coast Guard. US Inland Navigational Rules apply to most harbors, bays, rivers, and inlets inside the local areas' "line of demarcation". You are captain (C) of your vessel (V) and hence responsible for the result of your actions. Kayakers are responsible for knowing these rules which do engender respect from other responsible boaters.
Responsibility - Obligation to use best judgment at all times to avoid collisions.
The Rule of Good Seamanship. Captain (C) must obey the rules, but also must look beyond the strict wording to operate safely. C must take all precautions required by ordinary practice of seamanship & circumstances.
The General Prudential Rule. C must consider all dangers of navigation, collision, & special circumstances, "including the limitations of the vessel". C must insure V is properly manned & equipped including appropriate charts, weather info, etc., and have knowledge of other’s maneuvering practices.
Risk of Collision - C must use "all available means" to evaluate and avoid the risk of collision. Risks arise from poor seamanship, rule violations, judgmental errors, weather and mechanical problems.
Action to Avoid Collision - C shall take positive, timely action with good seamanship. Alternations of course and speed shall be clear to other V. Example: if waiting for another boat to cross, stop paddling and shift your heading 90 degrees.
Safe Speed - All vessels must proceed at a safe speed at all times and be able to take proper and effective action to avoid collision. Can a kayaker maintain a safe speed in tidal currents or in harbor entrances?
Restricted Visibility - V shall only proceed in a manner adapted to the prevailing conditions and visibility (fog, mist, rain, smoke, night.) Display navigation lights, sound proper signals. Can you appropriately paddle in fog? In 4’ seas?
Look-Out - All Vs must keep a proper lookout by "all available means". Can you fulfill this requirement as a kayaker?
Sound & Light Signals - Power driven Vs.
1 short Blast = altering my course to starboard
2 short Blasts = altering my course to port
3 short Blasts = reversing
5 short Blasts = warning. If worried or don't understand other.
Crossing Situations - 'Privileged' & 'Burdened' Vessels. Generally the V to the right has the Right of Way, but not applicable when larger V are restricted by draft in narrow channels. Privileged V required to maintain course and speed, thus need not sound signal. Burdened V must take early and substantial action to signal and avoid problems.
Narrow Channels - Keep to the right. Don't cross if hamper passage of V limited to the narrow channel, and don't impede restricted maneuverability V.
- GO ONLY WHERE “DARWIN” WOULD ADVISE.
- DO NOT CLAIM THE RIGHT OF WAY.
- KAYAKS LOSE BY THE TONNAGE RULE.
- WALLOW IN THE SHALLOWS.
- BIG BOATS WILL HIT MORE THAN YOU IF YOU’RE IN SHALLOW WATER.
- RED RIGHT RETURN IS WRONG: stay out of the lanes.
- NO ONE ELSE CAN OR WANTS TO SEE YOU.
- CROSS ALL FREEWAYS QUICKLY.
- BE POLITE, CLEARLY SIGNAL YOUR INTENTIONS.
- REMEMBER POWER BOATS THINK KAYAKS ARE JUST SPEED BUMPS.