Learn to Sail — Rules of the Road    
If two boats are traveling in the same body of water, that's traffic. The Navigation Rules International-Inland, also known as the Rules of the Road, state which boat has to get out of the other's way. Perhaps the most important rule is that you must keep a lookout for other boats at all times. Don't forget to look under the sails from time to time as well as behind and to both sides of you.

In general, sailboats have right of way over powerboats, including other sailboats under power. However, there are some important exceptions, involving anchored and disabled vessels as well as vessels that are restricted in their ability to maneuver, either because of what they are doing-perhaps fishing-or because of their draft relative to the water around them. A large vessel traveling in a narrow channel has the right of way. But even if you think you have right of way over a another boat, stay alert and use common sense.

An important rule pertaining to boats under power is that if two vessels are approaching each other almost head on, both should turn to starboard to avoid the other. You can tell whether your boat is on a collision course with another boat by taking a compass bearing on the other boat. If you don't have a compass, sit still and line up the other boat with a fixed part of your boat-a shroud, for example. If your course stays the same but the bearing doesn't change after a little while, you are on a collision course with the other boat and should alter course to stay clear.

Other rules govern what happens when two sailboats meet. If one boat is overtaking another, that boat ust keep clear of the boat being overtaken. If the two boats are on opposite tacks, the boat on port tack must keep clear of the boat on starboard tack. If two boats are on the same tack, the windward boat (the boat closer to the wind) must keep out of the way of the boat to leeward.

Having the fight of way is one thing, avoiding a collision is another. Using common sense is always right. If you think you might collide with another boat, take action to get your boat out of the way-but follow the rules as you do so.

You can order a copy of the complete Rules of the Road. Call (866) 512–1800 toll free for price and availability. The booklet may be ordered from:

Superintendent of Documents
U.S. Goverment Printing Office
Attn: Customer Service
Washington, DC 20402

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