June 9, 2024

2 min

Skills & Seamanship

You see a motorboat approaching on your right. What action should you take?


Nautical “rules of the road” are covered in the IRPCS, also known as the collision regulations and are there to prevent collisions by establishing which vessel is the “stand-on” vessel, and which must yield, known as the “give-way” vessel. The stand-on vessel maintains its course and speed, while the give-way vessel takes action to avoid collision. A power-driven vessel typically yields to sailing vessels, fishing vessels, and those restricted in maneuverability.

Identifying the Risk of Collision

When a motorboat approaches from your right, assess the risk by observing its bearing. If it’s bearing doesn’t change, and the distance is decreasing, there is a risk of collision and you should take appropriate action. When choosing what course of action to take, consider the motorboat’s speed and proximity, as closer, faster boats increase collision risk.

You are the give way vessel

Presuming you are also a motor drive vessel not a sailing boat, you are the give way vessel if a motorboat is approaching from your right hand (starboard) side.

Take Early and Substantial Action

Act early to avoid the risk of collision but also to ensure the stand on vessel knows you have taken action. Your options include altering course, reducing speed, or stopping entirely. Your best course of action will nearly always be to adjust course to starboard to ensure you pass behind the stand on vessel. If you choose to maintain the same direction but slow down, that may be fine but be aware that this will me much less obvious to the stand on vessel, especially in restricted visibility

Sound Danger Signal if Required

If you are the stand on vessel and a risk of collision persists and the other vessel’s intentions are unclear, sound the danger signal with at least five short blasts.

Establish a Safe Passing Arrangement

Your actions need to establish a safe passing plan with the motorboat. Maintain speed but change course, reduce speed but maintain course or a variation of the two. WHat you must NEVER do is turn to port. To do so is reckless and dangerous unless it is the only action in close quarters that will avoid a collision. If in doubt, pass behind. No one ever collided with a vessel they passed behind, but plenty have collided with one they thought they could just pass in front of.

Maintain a Proper Lookout

Constant vigilance is key. Use visual observations, radar, and AIS to detect potential hazards. Regularly scan the horizon and be aware of changing conditions.

Proceed with Caution

Remain cautious even after avoiding an initial collision risk. Monitor other vessels and environmental conditions to maintain safety.

On a jetski?

With the speed and turning circle on a jet ski you have a range of options and the only real imperative is notto get in the motorboat’s way. Your options are: slow down and give way to the motorboat; maintain your same direction and speed; approach the boat so you will be able to jump its wake; increase your speed and pass well in front of the motorboat

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