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Meeting Situations

Chris Riley by Chris Riley Updated on August 21, 2019. In nauticalknowhow

n the following situations, the give-way vessel must take action to keep well clear. The stand-on vessel should maintain its course and speed. If it becomes apparent that the actions taken (or not taken) by the give-way vessel are dangerous or insufficient, you should take action to avoid collision.

Meeting Head-On

When two power driven vessels are approaching head-on or nearly so, either vessel shall indicate its intent which the other vessel shall answer promptly. In a meeting situation neither vessel is the stand-on vessel.

It is generally accepted that you should alter course to starboard and pass port-to-port. The accompanying sound signal is one short blast. If you cannot pass port-to-port due to an obstruction or other vessels, you should sound two short blasts to indicate your intention to pass starboard-to-starboard. Make sure the other vessel understands your intent before proceeding. The other vessel should return your two-short-blast signal.



* Not sounded on International Waters
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View animation.

Overtaking

When two vessels are moving in the same direction, and the astern vessel wishes to pass, it must initiate the signal to pass as shown in the diagram. The vessel passing is the give-way vessel and should keep out of the way of the vessel being passed. The vessel being passed is the stand-on vessel and must maintain its course and speed. If the stand-on vessel realizes that the course intended by the give-way vessel is not safe, it should sound the danger or doubt signal.

If you are the overtaking vessel, remember that you are the give-way vessel until well past, and safely clear of, the passed vessel. Do not cut in front, impede or endanger another vessel.

Inland Rules

“I intend to pass you on your port side”
2 short blasts (1 sec.)

“Agreement”
2 short blasts (1 sec.)

International Rules:

“I intend to pass you on your port side”
2 prolonged blasts/2 short

“Agreement”
1 prolonged/1 short/1 prolonged/1 short

View animation

Inland Rules

“I intend to pass you on your starboard side”
1 short blast (1 sec.)

“Agreement”
1 short blast (1 sec.)

International Rules:

“I intend to pass you on your starboard side”
2 prolonged blasts/1 short

“Agreement”
1 prolonged/1 short/1 prolonged/1 short

Crossing

When two power driven vessels are approaching at right angles or nearly so, and risk of collision exists, the vessel on the right is the stand-on vessel and must hold its course and speed. The other vessel, the give-way vessel, shall maneuver to keep clear of the stand-on vessel and shall pass it by its stern. If necessary, slow or stop or reverse until the stand-on vessel is clear.

Danger Zone Animated GIF
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In the example above, the red vessel is the give-way vessel and should alter course and speed to pass behind the green vessel. If the skipper of the green vessel does not observe the red vessel taking action to avoid collision, then he/she must take the required action to avoid a collision.

Sailing Craft and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

Sailing craft and boats propelled by oars or paddles have the right-of-way over power driven vessels. An exception to this is if the sailing craft or self-propelled vessel is passing a power driven vessel. In an overtaking situation, the overtaking vessel is the give-way vessel, even if it is not propelled by an engine.


View animation

Sailing vessels have special situations when meeting and crossing each other. These are described in Chapter 9, Section 5, Sailing.


Navigating Narrow Channels

The rules tell you to stay to the starboard side of narrow channels. Make sure that you do not impede a vessel that is constrained by draft, i.e. a large vessel that must operate within the channel in order to make way safely. When crossing a channel, do so at a right angle and in such a way as to avoid causing the traffic in the channel to make course or speed changes. Do not anchor in a channel unless you cannot make way (broken down, etc.).

When operating on the Great Lakes, Western Rivers and other designated rivers, the downbound vessel (going with the current) has the right of way over a vessel going upstream. This is because a vessel going upstream can maneuver better than a vessel going downstream.

If you approach a bend in a river around which you cannot see, sound one prolonged blast to alert vessels approaching from the other side of the bend that you are there. If another vessel is around the bend, it should answer with one prolonged blast. Conversely, if you hear a prolonged blast as you approach the bend, answer with a prolonged blast.

Commercial Vessel Situations

If at all possible stay out of areas where there is commercial vessel traffic such as shipping lanes or traffic separation zones. Large ships and barges have special problems in maneuvering and can not and will not get out of your way.

If you must operate around commercial vessels take heed of the following:

  • Avoid ship channels. If you must cross do so at right angles and as quickly as possible.
  • Be alert. Watch for traffic.
  • Be seen, especially at night.
  • Know the sound signals, especially the danger or doubt signal.
  • Keep your VHF radio tuned to channel 16 and listen carefully.
  • Order all aboard to wear PFDs.
  • Be familiar with the area and have current navigation charts.
  • Don’t be a non-survivor of a collision with a large ship.

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