Advice on a minor collision


Unless the authorities had already become involved your insurance company will engage the services of a marine surveyer and loss adjuster.
The other vessels owner will do the same and generally they work it out among themselves. If they can’t your insurance company will use their attorneys to sort out the claim.
If the authorities are involved they will be conducting an investigation and you should consider engaging an attorney.


restricted in ability to maneuver has to do with the “nature of their work” dredging servicing a boy fall under this. If you are under power and drifting with a vessel approaching on your starboard side in a crossing situation you are the give way


Both vessels are power driven vessels in this case.

  1. You had your motor on and were taking down sails. The sail part is irrelevant in this scenario. You are a power driven vessel underway, making way.
  2. Other vessel has the motor on and was drifting. The vessel is a power driven vessel underway, not making way.
  3. The other vessel was to your port, you are the stand on vessel. However you should have sounded some sort of signal, whether danger signal or otherwise, you are not immune to liability. Waiting until the last second to reduce speed or change course is generally not prudent seamanship.


Rule 2 might be a better fit. This is from Handbook of the Nautical Rules of the Road by Llana & Wisneskey

Vessels not making way may be in special circumstances.

Risk-of-collision situations are a bit tricky. If good conditions exist, and if the stopped vessel can put on maneuvering speed quickly, and if one assumes that its steady course is that indicated by the point of its bow, and if then, by Rule 15, it would be the give-way vessel, the Steering and Sailing Rules would apply and the stopped vessel would be obligated to keep out of the way of the other. But if the vessel is drifting, its course may not be obvious. If the stopped vessel is large, it may not be able to move out of the way of a fast oncoming vessel. Whatever the “if” of the situation, encounters with vessels not making way through the water deserve extra caution.

Strictly speaking rule 15 requires a crossing situation.

When two power-driven vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision, the vessel which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way and shall, if the circumstances admit, avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel.

The other question is how one vessel can find itself in a “risk of collision” situation with another vessel that is dead in the water (DIW)


I’m basing off the fact the he thought the other vessel was underway. Either way though, reducing speed and altering course should have been the first actions. He didn’t say how old his daughter is, but I’m assuming she didn’t have the experience to determine there might be a problem about to happen.

And at 1-2 knots, what was the damage? I think we’ve all seen plenty of incidents like this with pleasure boaters.


Interesting responses, overall. Ultimately, assuming both vessels were underway, neither was maintaining a proper watch. The defense that vessel 2 raises that his engine was not running, and vessel #1 (OP) assertion that his own engine was running but not engaged would seem to attempt to color the incident as pure sailing maneuver customs, in which case vessel 2 was also on starboard tack AND leeward boat and possibly being overtaken, which would make the OP entirely at fault for the purposes of a race committee decision. There are no sailing rules other than Colregs for vessels aweigh. The USSA sailing rules apply only if stipulated to by a race committee or the covenants of an organization both sailors belong to. In my Solomonic judgement, I order that Vessel #1 pay the damages of vessel #2, and that Vessel #2 pay the damages of Vessel #1.:sunglasses:


I can’t recall from captain school, we went over this kind of scenario, if the engine is turned on but in neutral is it still considered a vessel under sail? I want to say it is considered a vessel under power even though it’s not in gear (because one can see water/exhaust shooting out the back so it is assumed they are under power)?

Either way, in this situation I hate to say it but I feel they could get him on not avoiding a collision sooner.

We are really prudent sailors, we have something like 40 years of sailing and powerboat experience between the two of us, we pretty much assume the other boat may not know colregs or is drunk based on our experiences and observations.

Mike, at the end of the day I think the insurance companies will duke it out. If you have any witnesses that can help you (especially to prove the other guy was underpower, that’s so dirty they are retracting that). Write your statements out now (daughter too) so it’s all fresh. Depending on the value of your boat and any injuries you may not need an attorney. Tough call man, hope it all works out okay.


No. Wheter your sails are all the way up or all the way down or halfway in between, if your engine is running, you no longer have the previledges of a vessel under sail.


Yep that’s what I thought. Thanks


Most smaller yachts do not have a generator and rely on their auxiliary engine to drive a refrigeration compresser and alternator to power “hotel” services. They are permitted to do this even while racing. The rules state the actions required by a power driven vessel but if the power train is not engaged and they are making way by sails alone then they are a sailing vessel.
A large Barque that I sailed on did sometimes show a visible exhaust were using auxiliary machinery to provide hotel services to the 220 crew.


Good advice. The marine surveyors used by Insurance companies are usually masters unlimited and are regarded by the courts as expert witnesses. They usually have many years experience in writing up reports on marine mishaps.


An auxiliary generator cannot propel the vessel therefore is immaterial to this discussion. If the engine that is connected to the prop is running, whether it is in gear or idlling in neutral is what matters. Racing regs are a subset and don’t apply. For the purposes of the COLREGS, it is a vessel under power.


I obviously have a different point of view. Power driven vessel means exactly that. The vessel is being driven by power. If it isn’t it is not a power driven vessel. In other words it is a bonus for the legal eagles.


COLREGS Rule 3 – General definitions

b. The term “power-driven vessel” means any vessel propelled by machinery.
c. The term “sailing vessel” means any vessel under sail provided that propelling machinery, if fitted, is not being used.

There is no mention of the engine running or not; the propeller turning or not is the criterion.


It’s not a matter of personal point of view, it’s a matter of law. A functional vessel with a running engine, whether it has sails or not, is a power driven vessel per the COLREGs.


Not being used means not running. If the engine is running, whether the prop is turning or not has nothing to do with it. If the engine is running the vessel is considered a power vessel. Please point to the COLREG contradicting my statement.


“Propelling Machinery” can only be more than the engine alone: Engine + Gearbox + Propeller.
Otherwise they would have used the word “Engine”.


What exactly is your point regarding a power driven vessel as described in the COLREGS?

Rule 3 (b) (Generaldefinitions) the term “power-driven vessel ” means any vessel propelled by machinery.


I agree 100%. @Lee_Shore let’s be two “sailing vessels” with engine engaged aka power driven, I’ll give you the starboard side, “right before” 5 seconds before I hit, I’ll disengage my engines…does that make me a “sailing vessel”… absolutely not, if you are using propulsion prior, you are power driven


Much in same way if you are power driven and about to collide, go tell your deckhand to cast a fishing line and that way you are a “fishing vessel”. Bullshit, at least the rules say that vessel is “trolling” and power driven and not “trawling” and fishing.