Motor boats and collisions

Interesting story here, about trying to reconstruct an accident that it seems should never have happened. It involves a charter fishing boat and a 35-foot sailboat with a 50-foot mast, sail up, on a sunny day with no visibility obstructions.

An accident that everyone should have been able to avoid by either following the rules on giving way, or realizing that this was not going to work and taking evasive action. But it still happened.

Worth a read in the context of other threads about options for kayakers like flags, horns and discussions about give way rules.

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A similar thing nearly happened to us. But we were in a sailboat and the wind had died down really reducing our ability to maneuver.

Two cabin cruisers were motoring along side each other on autopilot as everyone on board was drinking cocktails. No lookout.

We sounded horns and blasted whistles… A gun would have been handy perhaps to make them notice
They were going about 15 knots… They missed us by ten feet. And then waved.

Moral always have a camera. Get those reg numbers.

Lobster boats often have a crew of just one and do not always have a lookout when tending traps. They tend to travel in a spiral to the right. So just try not to paddle too close and look for the buoys whose color matches the one on the boat cab. Don’t go in those waters.

Here is an interesting link written by a power boat group

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Despite what it says in the article, most situations I’ve been in where right of way became an issue never went in favor of the human powered craft in reality. When I was president of a sea kayaking club, we used to preach “Assume you don’t have the right of way”, and “You have no business being in a marked channel unless necessary”. It worked in 99% of situations except for one where a power boater deliberately split a group of about 20 of us in open water, and stared us down as she did it. That was a unique event, though. No avoiding things like that.

It is nice, though, to see a power boating group basically say that having a motor doesn’t mean you rule the waves.

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Carry a loud air horn.
Saved my life.

As a Maine Sea Kayaking Guide I told my groups that they essentially were at the bottom of the pecking order and the only group that was lower in hierarchy was the non commercial recreational powerboat in theory.
Like you said kayakers should never assume anything about the competence of operators of those craft.

Because there are so many commercial fishermen here working and they do have the right of way over paddlecraft it is very important that paddlers know this.

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Never assume ANYONE sees you… I’ll show you my scars…

In this case the boat under sail is the stand on vessel and the power boat is the give way vessel. However, the overarching basis of the Rules of Navigation is that all vessels are required to do everything in their power to avoid a collision. The Rules of Navigation do not recognize the concept of someone or a particular vessel having absolute “right of way”. Most times in a maritime court blame is not absolute, but is apportioned depending on the totality of the evidence.

The Rules of Navigation are quite complex. Boats under sail often are the stand on vessel, but there are many exceptions. It is a common nautical myth that manually powered boats like kayaks have precedence over power boats. I have actually heard a group leader of a kayak touring company tell their clients that while paddling down a the center of a narrow and crowded channel in Annapolis. In fact, kayaks, SUPs and canoes are simply classified as “vessels”. In theory they have the same standing as a cabin cruiser or an oil tanker. This changes if the larger vessel is constrained by maneuverability such as being in a channel, a marina, or can’t easily change course. There are many other exceptions.

Aside from being considerate and using common sense, like staying out of the channel, the best rule for kayakers and other small boats to follow is the informal “Law of Tonnage”. If you decide to challenge a larger vessel for what you believe is your “right of way”, you may be right, but it will probably not turn out well for you. I have had many close calls over the years from power boaters simply not paying attention. A kayak is little more that a speed bump to them and some feel that manually powered boats.are required to get out of their way.

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