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Boating Basics

Navigation Rules


There are two terms that help explain these rules.

Stand-on vessel: The vessel that should maintain its course and speed

Give-way vessel: The vessel that must take early and substantial action to avoid collision by stopping, slowing down, or changing course

Meeting Head-On

Power vs. Power: Neither vessel is the stand-on vessel. Both vessels should keep to the starboard (right).

Power-driven vessels meeting head-on
Power vs. power meeting head-on

Power vs. Sail: The powerboat is the give-way vessel. The sailboat is the stand-on vessel.

Power-driven vessel meeting a sailboat head-on
Power vs. sail meeting head-on

Crossing Situations

Power vs. Power: The vessel on the operator’s port (left) side is the give-way vessel. The vessel on the operator’s starboard (right) side is the stand-on vessel.

meeting head-on
Power vs. power in a crossing situation

Power vs. Sail: The powerboat is the give-way vessel. The sailboat is the stand-on vessel.

Power vs. sail crossing situation
Power vs. sail in a crossing situation

Overtaking

Power vs. Power: The vessel that is overtaking another vessel is the give-way vessel. The vessel being overtaken is the stand-on vessel.

Power-driven vessel overtaking another power-driven vessel
Power vs. power overtaking

Power vs. Sail: The vessel that is overtaking another vessel is the give-way vessel. The vessel being overtaken is the stand-on vessel.

Sailboat overtaking a power-driven vessel
Power vs. sail overtaking

Encountering Vessels at Night

When you see only a white light, you are overtaking another vessel. It is the stand-on vessel whether it is underway or anchored. You may go around it on either side.

encountering a white light
Encountering only a white light

When you see a green and a white light, you are the stand-on vessel. However, remain alert in case the other vessel operator does not see you or does not know the navigation rules.

green light and a white light
Encountering a green and a white light

When you see a red and a white light, you must give way to the other vessel! Slow down and allow the vessel to pass, or you may turn to the right and pass behind the other vessel.

red light and white light
Encountering a red and a white light

Encountering a Sailboat at Night

When you see only a red light or only a green light, you may be approaching a sailboat under sail and you must give way. The sailboat under sail is always the stand-on vessel!

red light
Encountering only a red light
green light
Encountering only a green light