Navigation rules feature photo

Navigation Rules of the Nautic Road: U.S. Waterways

Navigation Rules of the Nautic Road

Ever wondered what the best ways are for handling crossing situations, bridges or tight passing gaps on the water? Well, then this blog post is for you. Here, we will explain the navigation rules and handy tips when sailing on the U.S. waterways.

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General Advice

Before we start with the various examples and specific situations, it goes without saying that being polite always pays off. When approaching any sort of situation, the first thing you should always do, is slow down. It’s also important to remind yourself that being in a rush, usually gets you nowhere and that slowing down or letting another boat go first can actually save you more time and clear your path.

Navigation Rules: Passing in General

A good habit to get into is using the VHF radio. Contacting the vessel is always beneficial if you know that you are going to pass each other, or if you think they may not have spotted you yet.

No matter whether a vessel under sail or under power, both vessels should slow down as this makes the passing much easier for both vessels.

In general, slower vessels tend to have right-of-way. Be considerate of them, or if you are one of them, use your radio to communicate your vessel speed to the other.

Navigation rules for passing other boats

Various vessels in passing

Navigation Rules: Two Boats Crossing

If both vessels are under power: the boat which has the other boat to starboard must refrain from sailing ahead of the other vessel and try to stay clear.

If one vessel is under power and the other under sail: in most cases the boat under power has to stay clear, as it causes a greater risk than the other.

Navigation Rules: Bridges

Vessels restricted by their size in terms of draft and maneuverability have priority when i comes to an opening bridge.

The boats with the current in their favor also have priority.

Rules for an opening bridge on the water

West Drawbridge of the Venetian Causeway in Miami

Navigation Rules: Two Sailboats Meeting

When both sailboats have the wind on the same side, the windward boat must keep clear of the leeward boat.

When the wind angles are different for each sailboat, the sailboat with the wind to port side is expected to stay clear of the sailboat with the wind to starboard side.

Navigation Rules: Power Vessels Meeting

In this case, both vessels are required to alter their direction to starboard.

In the case that one vessel is under power and the other under sail, the vessel under power should keep clear of the vessel under sail.

We hope that that this information was helpful and serves well in any of the above situations! If you want to learn more about sailing, visit our Tips for Sailors blog page.

Happy Sailing!


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