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:
- starboard tack has the right of way over port tack,
- if both boats are on the same tack, the leeward boat has the right of way (less maneuverability),
- if you don’t know who has the right of way, give way,
- 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.