Boat Traffic

I had a near miss with a motor boat the other day and I was wondering what the proper rule was for dealing with motorized traffic while paddling. I was crossing a river channel and saw one boat way up stream on my right. I felt I had plenty of time to cross but approximately 3/4 of the way accross I realized the guy was planning on cutting across my bow instead of my stearn, so I had to back paddle and let him pass. Should I have assumed he would pass behind me where he had more room and deeper water or did the boating rules dictate he pass my bow?

Here you go
Simple version:

Both boats alter course to their starboard (that’s right) to avoid collision.

Full version here.

Sounds like the motor boat did his part.

I know you’re asking
about right of way, however, the practical answer when dealing with power boaters is to assume nothing.

Well, he was crossing, not passing
Is “turning right” to avoid collision still the explanation here? The kayak was crossing with an estimated speed/path that would avoid collision. So if the motor boat changed course half-way through cutting sideways through the channel, that would be the boat’s responsibility to make sure its new course does not have obstacles.

If the situation was as described, I think the motor boat should not have cut infront of the paddler.

Not an expert though - just common sens thinking and that’s not always right by the book though -:wink:

an option to learn more
a simple way to gain a basic understanding of boating

regulations in your state:

choose your country & state, use the online manual to study, take the online exam anytime (within a 12 hour window). You only pay if you pass. Or you can just take the exam and see how you do.

JohnT, this is not a personal shot at you, nor in any way meant to ignite the usual tirades about powered vs. nonpowered craft (not saying your post is an example).

Knowledge & shared understandings of accepted practices in navigating amid boat traffic is good for all parties concerned. Speaking a common language as it were.

Gross tonnage rule.

The point where I crossed
was a wide bend in the river channel. The motor boat was on his left side of the channel and crossed over to his right side and thus shortened his path up river and passing very close to my bow.

No matter what the regs are…
I try to keep out of the way of all power boats, and give them the right of way.

In the large lake that we do our local paddling in, as soon as we launch there is a main channel that we like to cross, and we always make sure that there are no power boats in sight before we cross.

When we are down in the Keys for the winter months, we are constantly crossing channels and the ICW, and use the same practice there.

I find 99 percent of power boaters are very polite to paddlers.

Unfortunately there is always one jack ass that that wants to prove his might.

As friend “Grayak” says when we are in a group crossing a channel: " Everyone bunch up together. It makes a easier target for the power boats!"



Crossing situation
Overly simplified.

The vessel that has the other vessel to its starboard (in this case you) should alter course or speed to avoid collision. Any alteration should be significant enough to be observed by the other vessel.

The other vessel was “stand on” in this case and should have maintained his course and speed.

Sounds possible that neither vessel strictly complied.

Without a doubt, err on the side of caution, although be aware that other vessels will expect you to act in accordance with the rules.

do what you have to
There aren’t rules of the road like in cars - rules that if you follow them you won’t be at fault for an accident.

The one over-riding rule that holds for all parties is that they must do whatever they can to avoid an accident. So, if you get into an accident and you could have changed course or back paddled, even if you had right of way, you are partially at fault.

Boats with limited maneuverability (deep draft ships in channels, sail boats under sail, commercial fishing boats with gear out, etc.) who you need to give more leeway to, as they may not be able to maneuver to avoid you.

This all said, there are some stupid boaters out there. On a trip down the Columbia River (a bit upstream from Portland), we were crossing the river from south to north side. The south side was the deep channel, and we were careful to check traffic (mostly watching for tugs w/ barges). Was reasonably clear (though a decent amount of pleasure craft - it was Labor Day weekend). We got a good way across and notice a pleasure craft coming at reasonable speed upriver (from our left). We had gotten through the deep stretch and where looking at pretty shallow water in front of us, so figured he would turn to go behind us. He kept turning to go in front of us. We finally stopped, and got to watch the show of the guy get stuck in mud in front of us. I guess that some boaters just feel that they have all this power that they should be faster or get priority over others, but sometimes they let that power do the thinking for them. I am a strong supporter of the gross tonnage rule and assuming other boaters don’t know/don’t see you.

Rules of the Road
The responsibility to avoid collision, regardless of who has the right-of-way is the bottom line. You did the right thing, but the power boat did not. The best way to do this is to know the rules of the road and to make your intentions clear to the other vessel. Kayakers need to be particularly careful because other vessels may not see them or be ignorant of the rules. The power boat should have given you, the paddler, the right of way (since he was not restricted in his ability to maneuver). Perhaps he did not see you, or he was a jerk. Hard to tell. The following gives you a reference for right-of-way for one vessel over another. You can look up rules for sailboats passing/crossing each other and power boats crossing/ passing each other. You, as a paddler (same as a sailboat) have the right of way over a power boat in all circumstances, expect for those listed below. That does not give you the right or make sense for you to put yourself in harm’s way (not that you did).

Copied from:

Rules of the Road

There are two sets of navigation rules; inland and international. A nautical chart will show Detail of a nautical the demarcation lines where the rules change from international to inland and vice versa. In general, these demarcation lines follow the coastline and cross inlets and bays. On the seaward side of the demarcation lines, international rules apply.

We will concentrate on the inland rules, since most of your recreational boating will occur on the landward side of the demarcation lines.

The Nav Rules are written with the understanding that not all boats can maneuver with the same ease. Therefore, Rule 18 states that certain vessels must keep out of the way of other vessels due to their ability to maneuver.

A power driven vessel underway must keep out of the way of the following:

* A sailing vessel, under sail only, and vessels propelled by oars or paddles. (Note: when a sailboat has its motor running, it is considered a power driven vessel.)

* A vessel engaged in fishing, whose fishing equipment restricts its maneuverability. This does not include a sport fisher or party boat and generally means a commercial fishing vessel.

* A vessel with restricted maneuverability such as a dredge or tow boat, a boat engaged in work that restricts it to a certain area, or a vessel transferring supplies to another vessel.

* A vessel not under command – broken down.

Each of these vessels must keep out of the way of the next vessel. For example, a sailboat must keep out of the way of a vessel engaged in fishing, which in turn must keep out of the way of a vessel with restricted maneuverability. And everyone must keep out of the way of a vessel not under command.

a few answers, one basic conclusion
Based on inland rules of navigation, a boat restricted to a channel has right of way over a boat crossing that channel. If you are crossing a channel you have to give way to the powerboat IF that powerboat has restricted maneuverability in the river channel. Probably not the case for a little speed boat, but likely so for a commercial craft on a river. The conservative thing to do is stay out of the way of boats in the channel, and cross as quickly and directly as possible.

The rule of showing your port side to intersecting or oncoming traffic (in other words, stay right) only applies to boats of the same navigational class (i.e. two powerboats, to barges under tow, two sailing vessels). When different classes intersect (a powerboat and a paddlecraft, for example) the powerboat is the “give way” vessel. That’s the TECHNICAL rule.

But the practical boater should follow the unofficial “Rule of Gross Tonnage” - that is, the big boat always wins. A 30-foot sailboat cruising at 5 knots would be foolish to wait for a thousand-foot long supertanker moving 20 knots to give way to starboard. That brave skipper will eventually pay for his strict adherence to navigational rules with his life. The same rule of Gross Tonnage should be followed religiously by kayakers. The right thing to do is stay the heck away from powerboats. Crossing their bow, even when you’re fairly sure you will make it before they reach you is not smart. Hold up, and wait for a clear gap, then cross purposefully and quickly. If you’re in a group, stay close together.

As a kayaker, following any rule other than “gross tonnage” assumes that the other captain a) sees you, b) has any idea what the rules of the road are, and c) is not completely drunk. I think the odds of any one of those are probably less than half in many places.

Safe paddling.


that rule
That rule about the stand on vessel doesn’t apply in this situation. Only vessels of the same class will give way to the starboard vessel. If a boat under sail has a boat under power on his starboard side, the sailboat is the stand on vessel, even though he is not showing his port side to the powerboat.

Class of boat is considered before the crossing rules.

another factor
Sometimes what feels like a safe passing distance to a powerboater feels like a dangerous near-miss to a kayaker. The powerboater may have been giving you what he thought was a very safe margin. But to you in the smaller slower boat, that distance felt unsafe.

The only way to avoid that situation, even with a conscientious powerboater, is to plan your crossing so that YOU get to choose how close you come to other boats.

doesn’t work like that
"""“You, as a paddler (same as a sailboat) have the right of way over a power boat in all circumstances,”"""

Paddlers need to behave as powerboats. We haven’t got a motor but we are underway and not restricted in our ability to manuever.

The rules dictate that the vessel crossing with oncoming traffic to its right should give way and both boats should take reasonable and prudent action to avoid collision. Yes. However, that does not demand that the stand-on vessel cross the bow of the crossing vessel.

When running a river, if someone is crossing in front of you and they are 3/4 of the way across and making obvious progress toward shore the polite and safe thing to do is go astern irrespective of whether or not you’re approaching their port or starboard side. Cutting tight between somebody’s bow and the shore that they are approaching is bad juju especially when there’s deep open water behind them and no oncoming traffic. That boat that is 3/4 of the way across with deep open water behind them has already yielded the channel to traffic. Just because you’re approaching a vessel’s starboard side doesn’t mean that you have to cross in front of them to claim right of way. Of course a boat that is running a river and cuts a corner while crossing your bow isn’t knowledgeable or concerned with nav rules anyway.

If you happen to be the kayak that is crossing there isn’t much you can do except yield to the bigger faster boat. This is best accomplished by getting across in a timely manner to reduce their need to alter heading or speed. The only sure way to mitigate such encounters in the future is give yourself even more time to cross in the future. Then again that doesn’t always work. I’ve had 65mph bass boats (even though the speed limit is 25-30) catch me crossing the St. Johns and it takes me less than 1’ to cross. Then you just hope that you’re sufficiently visible because you’re little more than a speed bump to a boat running 60+mph on a river with restricted sight lines.

Thanks for the responses
Just to respond to some of the responces, I do try to avoid boat traffic as much as possible. There was a lot of traffic that day and I thought I had plenty of time to cross, (the boat appeared just as I started across the chanel) and would have had the power boat not switched sides of the channel to cut thouugh the inside of the curve of the river. I did yield to the boat once I saw he had changed course that would bring him across my bow.

the problem here is that there are a lot of power boaters and very few kayakers. Most do show courtesy, but there are a few that operate with no regard to other boaters.

Unbelievable and incorrect

– Last Updated: Apr-20-10 2:50 PM EST –

Nowhere in the Colregs International or Inland does it say a paddle craft has "right of way" or more accurately "stand-on" priveledge over a power vessel.

Some local state lake laws etc, may, but absolutely NOT in the Colregs.

As I read this the paddler cut ACROSS a channel in which a vessel to his starboard was headed down. The paddler should have given way, as would he if he were crossing in another vessel.

A kayak is just another vessel and has no special right of way over any other vessel unless in a stand on situation with an otherwise unrestricted vessel.

Kayakers have the same priveledge as an unrestricted power vessel, but no enhanced priveledge as kayaks are NOT considered restricted.

Please take the time to study the Rules from a relaible source, take a class, and don't assume anything is my advise to the OP. Kayaker forums are NOT the place to get accurate advise as you'll likely get well intentioned, but inaccurate advise,,,,which you'll probably just pass on...

No offense John, but that could be said
of your action. You were not correct and in fact he did what he should have done which is maintain course and speed. He may have been confused by your actions?

  1. He was coming down a narrow (ish) channel and you were crossing.
  2. He was on your Starboard and as such had stand-on priveledge, despite the added situation of a narrow waterway.
  3. Had the roles been reversed he would have been the give-way vessel to you!

    You are, no offense, doing what many paddlers do. Assuming things that are innaccurate, discourteous, and potentially dangerous secondary to ignorance.

    So here you have two choices:

  4. Rely on questionable information on a kayaker site (a group known to have a poor grasp of the Rules)and go on with a head full of “wrong” info, OR
  5. Learn the truth via a trusted source, course, USCG info, etc.

    Choice is yours.

    Safe paddling