Are Single-Handed Sailors in Conflict with the Rules?

Chris Riley by Chris Riley Updated on July 29, 2019. In nauticalknowhow

Do they have the right to Zzzzzz?

Steve Barefoot knew the answer to this question by pointing out that sailing single-handed around the world would be in violation of Colregs-Part B, Section I, Rule 5- Conduct of Vessels in any Condition of Visibility which states: “Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight as well as by hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.” Steve is backed up by a 1984 court decision.
Capt. Matt

In 1984, Granholm v. TFL Express, the court found a single-handed racer negligent for taking a thirty-minute nap.

The yacht, Granholm, was participating in a qualifying sail for a transatlantic race. With the boat on autopilot, and with all required navigation lights showing, the owner scanned the horizon for ships, set a thirty-minute time, and went below for a nap. Meanwhile, the TFL Express was on autopilot, making eighteen knots; the mate was plotting her position, and the “lookout” was making tea. The Express came up from behind and ran the Granholm down.

The owner of the Granholm sued the Express for her failure to maintain a proper lookout (Rule 5), and for neglecting, as the overtaking vessel, her obligation to keep clear (Rule 13). The court agreed, but placed equal blame on the single-hander, saying, “The obligation to maintain a proper lookout falls upon great vessels and small alike.”

In other words, if single-handed sailing prevents one from maintaining a “proper lookout” as defined by the Rules, the very act is negligent. Single-handers beware.




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