Right of Way Question


– Last Updated: Sep-18-07 6:23 PM EST –

And I thought kayakers in Manhattan were bad!

"why, why do they do it?"

I think they do so for two reasons: ignorance or a sense of privilege.

And these guys are going to cause kayaking to be regulated or restricted.

Thanks For Responses
No wonder I have been confused about right of way questions since taking up kayaking 6 years ago. Given the number of paddlers out there, I’m surprised that there are no clear, concise, carved in stone rules by the Coast Guard or some other governing body that specifically address the issue of paddlers. I once tried to read the official rules of navigation on the Coast Guard site, but decided I needed someone who could translate 16th century English. I guess I’ll just follow the rules dictated by common sense and courtesy. When all else fails, I will follow the “Rule of Tons.” If you are in my way and paddling a kayak that’s less than 14ft, you better watch out!!

got it
a high density of boats and people with a club bearing the burden to provide clear answers to kayakers.

it’s bizarre

– Last Updated: Sep-18-07 7:04 PM EST –

the area is very tight so all boats are going just fast enough for steerage, less than 6mph but it should be screaming obvious that if you're a little boat less than 2' off the water and weighing 200-300lbs you have no frigging business crossing paths with 20,000 to 150,000lb boats if you don't have to.

Actually I think it's less than 300' across, maybe 200'x500' with BIG boats and yacht club on one side with fuel docks and boats under 60' on the other,,just checked, it's closer to 500x1000' but it feels smaller when full

Nice rule!
“if you’re a little boat less than 2’ off the water and weighing 200-300lbs you have no frigging business crossing paths with 20,000 to 150,000lb boats if you don’t have to.”

There’s a nice simple rule!


– Last Updated: Sep-18-07 8:03 PM EST –



They are International, not drawn up by the US Government. They happen to be in English probably because of a certain sea power in times gone by.

That is if anyone cares to read them.

CliffJrs Can you cite me
the section(s) from these rules that applies to a kayak crossing paths with a sailboat under sail in a harbor? Thanks for posting the rules by the way.

Do you feel
that your question has not been adequately addressed here? Just curious.

Vessels crossing situation Rule 9
What “vessels” are required to comply with the Navigation Rules? In Rule 3 the word vessel includes every description of watercraft, including non-displacement craft, WIG craft, and seaplanes, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water.

Courts have interpreted transportation to not just include passengers, but also goods or services. The Navigation Rules address vessels, not whom/what is controlling them.


Thanks Clffjrs
I will check it out. PS Salty Yes, I think that my question was adequately addressed. I do appreciate it!

I am still curious
What I pictured from the original question was kayak maintaining course and speed and sailboat tacking onto a collision course at close range. I haven’t really seen that specific question addressed in the responses. I assume that you might need more facts to answer–e.g. was the sailboat tacking because it was out of water on the course it was on?–but I don’t have a clear sense of what rule applied to the situation described (other than the Law of Gross Tonnage, of course, which is the most important one when you’re in danger of being run over by a larger vessel).


– Last Updated: Sep-18-07 10:29 PM EST –

A sailing vessel when under sail has stand-on privelidge over another vessel, unless said vessel is higher in the pecking order, which kayaks are NOT. Think about the practicality of that! A sailing vessel is somewhat limited. Study the Rules. There is a link here so follow it and educate yourself. If you look for Rules answers on a kayak site you are likely to get bad information, albeit not intentionally. Call your local USCG office with questions.

I was heading out of
Ventura Harbor in the main channel, which is about 100 yds wide, when the sailboat, heading in the opposite direction, simply turned into my path from my right to left. The sailboat created the potential for collision by turning in front of me. This happened near the land end of the harbor, which was what the sailboat was heading towards. In fairness to the sailboat, it was running out of room to turn before hitting the docks. It had no choice but to initiate a turn soon. What annoyed me was that the captain of the sailboat was looking right at me before he turned. He knew I was there and simply did not take me into account to any extent in the manner in which he turned. He still had some room to angle his boat in any way so as to allow me to pass. He created a situation with only two possible outcomes, me stopping suddenly or me getting creamed big time. It was a fairly large saiboat under full sail traveling a little faster than you would expect in a harbor, especially near the land end of it.

Here’s what I want you to do

– Last Updated: Sep-19-07 12:14 AM EST –

Call your local CG office and talk to them. Please do not seek advice on a hypothetical(we were not there) situation involving Navigation Rules on this site. Make a simple phone call and get the "RIGHT" answer.

Clearly you have no grasp of the Rules or what being a courteous mariner is about. Not slamming you, merely stating a fact. You don't know what you don't know, and this aint the place to get that info! You were in no way aware of what that sailor was doing, needed to do etc. Not a frickin clue! Guy was good and the reason he was staring at you was probably in disbelief that YOU didn't "get what was going on". He's probably on a sailing site slamming the idiot kayaker blocking his approach.

Two choices await you: 1. Learn the facts and become a smarter kayaker and Mariner. 2, Confrim your biases by seeking support for your thinking, and remain mis-informed. Simple as that.

I'm out!

Let me get this straight
The skipper had “no choice but to initiate a turn soon.”

  • OK, so how can you take issue? That should be all you need to get your head around - and end the discussion.

    He “was looking right at me before he turned. He knew I was there”

  • This is a good thing! A bad thing would have been if he DIDN’T see you!!!

    He “… simply did not take me into account to any extent in the manner in which he turned. He still had some room to angle his boat in any way so as to allow me to pass.”

  • This is 100% assumption on your part. I’d say if he was eyeballing you he was taking you into account - and probably more than he wanted to. Do you know the depths there, actual speed and distances involved, how that boat handles, etc? Do you know how he’d have made the turn if you weren’t there? He was also likely to lining up for his next turn. A sailboat has to think ahead - they can’t just stop anywhere and go in any direction at any speed like a kayak can. I’m also thinking there had to be more room than you claim. Uncomfortably close for you maybe, but a near death experience close or just a wake-up call? Was it hurting your neck to look up at him as he passed? If not, you weren’t that close! L

    “He created a situation with only two possible outcomes, me stopping suddenly or me getting creamed big time.”

  • So you took the correct action and stopped. Great! Is stopping your kayak really hard to do? Is doing so really that big of a deal? If it prevents a collision, AND letting him pass close (by your standards) likely prevents another collision or grounding?

    “It was a fairly large sailboat under full sail traveling a little faster than you would expect in a harbor, especially near the land end of it.”

  • Speed is relative, and he likely needed to keep some up some to ensure he made his turn as needed. The larger he was, the more it makes sense that he would err toward you vs. a dock!

    Reading posts of so called near collisions with “bad” boaters over the years (and no actual collisions - save one at night that could have almost certainly been avoided by the paddler using his paddle to maneuver instead of waving it at a driver on plane with no chance of seeing him) I have come to the inescapable conclusion that kayakers who tend to complain about other craft also have trouble estimating speeds and distances, wake sizes, anticipating course and speed changes, minimizing time in likely trouble spots, etc. Everything is larger than life from that low on the water, and being in a small craft that reacts to every wiggle and breeze only highlights any perceived vulnerability.

    A boat under sail is pretty visible. You should have had plenty of time to take whatever action was appropriate. Apparently this wasn’t the case - or it was, but a bit too close for comfort. This begs the question: Are you saying you weren’t keeping a good enough eye on other traffic, or that you are not familiar enough with sailboat traffic in the area to keep ahead of the action? Either way, based on your account, I don’t see it as the sailboat captains error.

    Of course, I wasn’t there (and so far have not found myself “there” around here either!).

I was not turning. I was going straight. He suddenly turned directly in front of me. Under what circumstances does a sailbat have the right to do that? Quote me a reg. When is it permissable for a sailboat to cut swiftly and suddenly in front of a kayak, or any other boat for that matter. From the moment he started his turn and when I had to stop was about 2 seconds. I noticed him looking at me about a second or 2 before he initiated his turn. Hey, I’ve been kayaking for a while now, both coasts, open ocean, Channel Islands, lakes, harbors, rivers, all kinds of conditions. I’m as alert and careful as the next guy. I just have a problem with people making last second turns in front of me. You are right, you were not there.

having a boat do last minute course changes that put them on a collision course that requires you to stop is surprising.

My sense is that a kayak doesn’t have any privelege in a confined waterway.

just out of curiosity where were you in the channel? If it’s 300’ wide were you 100’ from the sides, 50’, 25’?

A fairly large sailboat under sail has a confined set of course options in a waterway,and a lot of power moving it,with no reverse or stop mode. From his vantage point he’s looking 100yds ahead for other boats coming out of slips and channels. The turn he makes now could be to ensure a safe set of options 100’ ahead, options you may not be aware of.

It may well be he decided on a course that required you to stop for any one of a number of reasons but trying to run a kayaker down wouldn’t be the first of them compared to, not runing into the breakwater, another boat after the tack, depth of the water, over hangs on the bow sprit, etc.

In this instance…

– Last Updated: Sep-19-07 11:22 AM EST –

In this case the sailboat was heading for an obvious target with limited manuverability, your view is that the guy saw you and still acted a bit irresponsibly. This may be true - it is hard to tell from across the water whether someone has an attitude.

But there are other possibilities too, which is why I tend to give sailboats of any size tons of berth. My sister and brother-in-law have done the work to be able to rent from an outfit up in Maine - like a 26' big water sailboat. My brother-in-law usually drives with my sister monitoring the GPS etc. If it was my sister at the wheel I'd feel differently, but the only thing I want to know when these guys go out is where they are so that I can be at least two harbors away. I hear the stories and don't want to be anywhere near them. You cannot assume that everyone behind the wheel is able to handle their boat well, and really controlling the skidded turn that is a sailboat manuver takes more finesse (IMO) than in a motor boat.

Sailboats also can have awfully deep keels that leave them more vulnerable to obstacles at lower tide than the motor boats of the same size, especially the ones designed to be self-righting. What appears as a navigable channel on your charts for most boats may be more limited for a sailboat.

Finally, having had the controls in my hand for a sailboat owned by friends with far too much confidence in my skills, precisely estimating the amount and speed of turn you'll get under sail is a much more finessed art than turning the wheel of a motor boat. Even good sailors can be off a little bit if the conditions are different than usual or the wind throws them a sudden change.

There is also the issue of where you were. If I get this right you were between an entrance into a harbor and the open channel. Personally my choice would be to not proceed until there were no boats likely to be coming thru while you were in the channel regardless of who may offically have what right. Granted judging speed of a sailboat is tougher - I find I have to watch them longer than I would a motor boat to gauge it correctly.

It is quite possible that this guy had an attitude. But I also often cross the street looking at the drivers in the car that is stopped at the light, mostly so that I know they have seen me.

physics of sailboats
understandably the poster is concerned with whether it’s ok for a sailboat to just point his way at the last second but I think there’s a presumption that the control a kayaker has over his boat is the same as a sailboat.

What I’d like to do is get a range of paddlers and confine them in a similarly proportioned waterway and see how many paddlers have enough control of their kayak to not bump into each other. In other words a half dozen 17’ kayaks in a 50’ wide waterway traveling down one half of the waterway (not in the middle), turning around and going the other way. Then put a motorboat in the mix.

Most of us have paddled three or four abreast and experienced the person next to us veering into us,what I find is that most “intermediate” paddlers don’t have basic skills like engaging a draw stroke while under way to give some room to the guy next to you.

If sailboaters and motor boaters had similar lack of control they’d be running into each other and the rocks all the time. But the consequences of bumping into each other are slight so many folks don’t learn the control required to paddle parallel to the edge of a channel within a boat length as they veer left/right.

Main channel?

– Last Updated: Sep-19-07 11:38 AM EST –

"Ventura Harbor in the main channel, which is about 100 yds wide"

If you are talking about the opening into the open ocean (south of Marina Park), the total width appears to be about 180yds. It appears you where in the "main channel" (ie, somewhere in the middle of the total 180yds) with something like 120 feet on each side (outside) of the main channel.

If this is the case, -why- were you in the main channel? Did you -need- to be in the main channel?


"He suddenly turned directly in front of me. Under what circumstances does a sailbat have the right to do that?"

If your safety depends on the other person, you will get into trouble. Do what -you- can to keep safe.

You seem to think that the "fault" lies entirely with the captain of the sailboat.

Instead, there's an awfully good chance that you are at least partially responsible for the supposed "near collision". That is, -you- made a mistake. This is important to understand because this understanding will help you avoid getting into similar situations in the future.