Rules of the road

I was overtaken yesterday by a sailboat running under power and moving just barely faster than I was. I had just come around the outside of the Diamond Head buoy and he’d cut a bit inside. After rounding, I’d turned to a course converging slightly with the shoreline, while he’d made a smaller turn and was diverging. That put us on a collision course. As he slowly came up alongside me, I kept adjusting course to seaward until I could cut across his stern and go back to where I wanted to. All in all, I was probably off course for 5 minutes or so until he finished overtaking.

It’s a big ocean and I had lots of options for avoiding collision, so it’s no big deal, but as the overtaking vessel wasn’t the sailboat supposed to be avoiding me? I ask because the folks in the cockpit kept giving me what looked like dirty looks as we converged (closest point of approach was maybe 50’ on courses that were almost parallel by that point), which seemed kind of odd under the circumstances. They had the law of gross tonnage on their side and there’s no way I was going to push the issue, but if they couldn’t lift a finger to adjust the autopilot it seems like they could at least save the dirty looks.

Just smile and wave
at people who do stuff like that-they never know how to react and then sometimes avoid eye contact.


Technically, You have the right of way, but on the water tonnage rules. ML has a good approach: “Smile and Wave”

Lewis and Clark solution
See the IMAX film and check out the ordnance mounted on the bow of the keelboat. A shot across the bow can challenge the tonnage rules. Particularly useful for PWCs.


feeling flippant today

Right Of Way And Attiudes
A sailboat under sail has right of way over powerboats, but you should hear some fishing boat skippers curse when they yield.

Same thing with surfers. Long boards versus short boards versus kayaks.

You didn’t spend as much for your kyak as he did for his sailboat so he thinks he owns the bay.

Gets pretty windy around the point
there. Was he fighting the wind? Many sail boats a underpowered for real wind and/or currents. You were nice but he should have given way technically. I sometimes “plan ahead” for the ignorant or those in difficulties since I am so small and manueverable when paddling.

Since he made a face at you I guess you could have smiled and mentioned the obvious to him… He really should have asked for the way since he was that close to you. Probably a tourist borrowing or renting an unfamiliar boat.

You’re correct in your assumption that
the overtaking vessel should avoid the vessel being overtaken (with the caveat that the vessel being overtaken shall not alter course to hinder the overtaking vessel).

This rule sort of applies in general situations where one vessel is not under “more burden” than the other (i.e. nothing under tow, each has reasonably similar manoeverability, etc.) However, in dealing with two vessels with large manoeverability differences, the more manoeverable vessel should give way to the less manoeverable. Which is why all sorts of pleasure craft should give way to tugs with something under tow, fishing boats with gear out, etc. - this also explains why commercial fishermen curse sailboats under sail that don’t give way - the sailboaters are mis-interpreting the rule. Could be this sailboat, doing what 3-5 knots under power?, felt you were more manoeverable and should get out of his way? Just a thought.

My own personal rule is: “If you can’t win in a collision - get out of the way!”

It was very mellow out there
Conditions were very much on the mellow side–light wind, small swell, even smaller wind waves. I think he just assumed it was up to me to stay out of his way.

I agree wholeheartedly
with the rule–that’s what I did. But there was no real difference in our ability to maneuver–he could have crossed my stern with a very small course change when we started converging.

that got me in trouble once
One time I was crossing a wide river and a motor boat was coming up the river on my port bow. Normally in this crossing situation he should adjust course to starboard to cross my stern, but since I was the more manueverable craft and he was traveling in the channel (and he was going a lot faster than me) I figured I’d just slow down and wait for him to pass. But then he made a bunch of quick turns to starboard (followed turns to port back on his original course) as if he expected me to keep going. I was confused but I just stayed where I was and eventually he passed in front of me. He waved at me as he passed so I guess he caught on eventually, but I’m not sure how the rules should have applied in that stuation.

Lake-Michigan sailboat mentality
More than once I’ve heard about charter fishermen complaining about the sailboats on Lake Michigan. In one particular harbor (a narrow river channel, actually), sailboats under power routinely overtake the charter boats from behind (often exceeding the no-wake speed limit as they do so), with the operator cussing and shouting for the $%^*&^ fishing boat to get out of the way. Those guys seem to think they always have the right-of-way, even when running sails-down and under power while overtaking another vessel(perhaps they think two wrongs make a right (of way!)). If you look around you can find violators everywhere. At least sailboats aren’t gonna turn you into fish bait when carelessly operated, the way fast powerboats can.

I’ll bet that really goes over well with the charter boat skippers.

St. Joe?
You wouldn’t happen to be talking about St. Joseph, MI would you (I see that you’re from WI, but narrow river channel describes the St. Joe River to a “T”)? I visit relatives there regularly and am often amused at watching the log jam that develops there. Lots of questionable maneuvers.

We had a sailboat alter course to cut us off. We stopped and waited for them to cross and they came about and deliberately charged my wifes boat. She had to paddle hard to get out of the way. It does not matter what kind of boat they have there are still inconsiderate jerks out there.

Maybe he couldn’t believe that you were going nearly as fast as he was. Afterall, all you had was a paddle! So he just assumed he could cut in front of you without altering course. Just a thought.

Speed assumptions
I get that a lot. Many slow zones where I am doing similar speeds to the motor traffic here. Pass some, most pass me but very slowly. Seems to confuse the hell out of them. Knowing this, I keep even more alert. Sometimes it’s better they don’t see me at all as they can overreact and grossly misjudge things when they do.

Sheboygan, WI
It’s the Sheboygan River/Harbor. I have only been there a few times, when the boss takes his handfull of employees charter fishing. I’ve seen this sailboat-thing happen first-hand, and have heard the charter captains grumble about it plenty!

That may well have been part of it
But the situation developed so slowly, in wide-open water, that I have to think the biggest part of it was that it just never occurred to the guy that a mere kayak had any right to do anything but stay the heck out of his way. Which I did, so I guess everyone ended up more or less happy. It was an absolutely gorgeous day after a week or so of gray skies and heavy rain, so he would have had to do a whole lot worse than that to mess up my paddle.

Stay out of my way
I get those looks alot. Just the other day I was fishing in the middle of a very small creek off a large river. Out of nowhere comes this jetski. I never expected a jetski to be back in this area. Very shallow, lots of vegetation. Anyway, he gives me a dirty look and shakes his head, like I’m a loser for being where he wants to be. I just smiled and waved, then started working my fly line in his direction. He got the message. I get that all the time. People look at me like I’m from Mars. I guess they just don’t see people in kayaks that much. Or is it because they spent big bucks for their ride they think they own the water they are on? Those people are probably aggressive drivers on the road as well.

I once used a VHF
Simililar situation. Afterward I turned so he couldn’t see me & hailed him on a VHF. When he responded, I said, “Stay the hell out of that kayaks way. I’m watching you.” Wonder what he thought, almost fell out of the boat laughing. Paddling is fun.