Right of Way

Sailboats always have the right of way over powerboats. A sailboat with its engine on is a powerboat, even if it also has the sails up.

When 2 boats meet, the boat with the right of way is called the ‘stand on’ boat, the other boat is the ‘give way’ boat.

When Under Power

2 powerboats head on: both go to starboard

In most cases, the boat to starboard has the right of way:


When under sail there are 4 rules:

  1. starboard tack has the right of way over port tack,
  2. if both boats are on the same tack, the leeward boat has the right of way (less maneuverability),
  3. if you don’t know who has the right of way, give way,
  4. you may have the right of way, but if they’re a lot bigger and not moving, give way.This is especially true in shipping lanes. Freighters and tankers may not have anyone on the bridge watching the radar screen. You are a very small blip.

Don’t argue, just get out of the way.

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