Rule 13 question

I recently heard an exchange over the vhf between a sailboat and a dinner boat in NY harbor. It got a bit heated. Both had licensed captains.

The dinner boat was apparently overtaking the sailboat and was pissed when the sailboat tacked into the wind as he was passing. Dinner boat guy accused the guy of trying to intentionally collide.

My question is: is the sailboat required to maintain course and speed if someone is passing him? Does rule 17 come into play? Or does the Notwithstanding phrase give rule 13 priority?

Notwithstanding anything contained in the Rules 4-18, any vessel overtaking any other shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken

So if i am interpreting this correctly rule 13 takes precedence over rule 17, and the sailboat is not required to maintain course and speed. Good seamanship and courtesy aside. The dinner boat must keep clear and give way regardless.

Since Jim McKoy recently crossed the bar, I will ask this here.

Good seamanship can never be set aside. It’s required by the rules (Rule 2a).

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13 and 17 work together here. The overtaking boat goes around the overtaken boat and the overtaken boat maintains course and speed [to the best of its abilities as it is a sailboat]

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Do the sailboat had no choice but to tack to avoid shoals? Anyhow, I believe that the Dinner-boat will have an indigestion since …

Rule 13, Overtaking
(a) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Rules of Part B, Sections I and II, any vessel overtaking any other vessel shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken.
(d) Any subsequent alteration of the bearing between the two vessels shall not make the overtaking vessel a crossing vessel within the meaning of these Rules or relieve her of the duty of keeping clear of the overtaken vessel until she is finally past and clear.

Rule 8, Action to avoid Collision
(d) Action taken to avoid collision with another vessel shall be such as to result in passing at a safe distance. The effectiveness of the action shall be carefully checked until the other vessel is finally past and clear.
(e) If necessary to avoid collision or allow more time to assess the situation, a vessel shall slacken her speed or take all way off by stopping or reversing her means of propulsion.
(f) (i) (ii) (iii) …

Rule 18, Responsibilities between Vessels
(a) A power-driven vessel underway shall keep out of the way of:
(iv) a sailing vessel.

Rule 34, Manoeuvring and Warning Signals …

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Rule 17 cannot be ignored. The stand on vessel must maintain course and speed.

@silverbk , as Jim McKoy would say “don’t rewrite the Rules”. As any of us that was lucky enough to have him would know, the rules are pretty straightforward regarding this. Seems to be a case of the sailing vessel thinking he always has the right of way, which seems to be especially true in NY Harbor.

I’m curious how you would treat the case of a sailing vessel that is close-hauled with wind on its port bow as you are overtaking and has reached the limit of its available room in the sailing direction because of channel edge or an obstruction of some sort. You are overtaking on its port side.

It must turn left , and it physically cannot turn less than ninety degrees or so without being caught “in irons” being blown backwards by the wind with sails flapping.

What do you (and the rules) expect this sailing vessel to do?

This is not an uncommon situation, because if the desired destination is upwind of the vessel, it must get there by crossing the channel diagonally and then tacking and crossing diagonally in the other direction.

This should make it clear.


I’m sorry, I don’t follow, and Google shows no results for that string of letters. Could you elaborate?

Narrow channels
Traffic Separation schemes
Not under command
Restricted in ability to maneuver
Constrained by draft
Fishing vessels
Sailing vessels
Pilot vessels
Wing in ground craft

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Ah, thanks.

That’s a perfect example of when a VHF conversation ahead of time would be really important.


That makes all kinds of sense to me, and when I was cruising I made full use of Ch 13 and guarded that channel as well as 16.

But in my hypothetical situation both vessels are limited to signalling by whistle/fog horn or other “efficient sound-producing device”, bell, loud hailer/cupped hands, Aldis lamp, flag hoists, semaphore, flames on board, and aerial flares/blue lights (the pyrotechnic kind, which I admit I’ve never seen). In short, they can’t avoid solving this entirely by strict application of the COLREGS.

Your choice of Inland or International Rules.

This is such a (comparatively) common situation from the point of view of a WAFI that I’ve long been puzzled that it’s not widely discussed.

Why not?

Rule 34 (c ) either International or Inland.

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Fair enough. But 34c Inland doesn’t apply to sailing vessels.

Rule 9 (b).

I was once attacked by one of these dinner boats that seemed to be doing its level best to ram me and said vessel was famous for ignoring all colregs. I was close hauled on a port tack and they were aimed for a direct hit on my port side. They did not alter course, so in the interest of not being run over I turned to starboard. I could not turn port without going into irons right in front of them. They too turned to their port to reacquire their collision course when all they had to do was keep going straight. I turned even more starboard and was no aimed for a seawall about 500 feet off the bow. They too required their target lock on me and laid on 5 blasts with the horn. Once again they could have gone straight and gone astern of me. At this point short of disabling cannon fire I decided to crash tack in front of him to get away. What seemed to be going on was he wanted the tourists to have a view of the shoreline and didn’t want anyone coming between him and the scenery. Radio calls went unanswered of course.

Same boat - presumably not the same skipper - ran over a 420 from my junior sailing program when I was about 12. The kids swam out of the way in time but the boat was not so lucky and was sunk.

Not under command
Restricted in ability to maneuver
Constrained by draft
Fishing vessels
Sailing vessels
Power vessels
Wing in ground craft

Here is an easy mnemonic to remember the order:



Thanks for that. It will certainly help the memory.

But (and I know I didn’t specify in my hypothetical) it seems to me that a dinner boat is not likely to fall under any of those except power vessel.

So the dinner boat was required to exchange horn signals, and, no surprise, didn’t. And the sailboat was required to sound five blasts and, no surprise, didn’t. The Admiralty lawyers would no doubt have a field day picking the bones after they sank each other.

Seems to me the more vessels you get into the less space, the more everything collapses onto rule 2b and the more it needs active cooperation by everyone involved. And the lawyers will pick the bones.

If the sailboat was actually sailing then neither vessel was required to sound signals, the PDV was simply required to stay out of the way of the sail vessel if they were in open water. In confined water the sail vessel is required to not impede the PDV confined to a channel.