Rule 9 and Narrow Channels and Fairways

You’re totally missing the point. jdcavo called it a sailboat because that’s what kind of boat it is. With no sails rigged and under power it is a sailboat under power, still a sailboat, not a powerboat. The COLREGS have nothing to do with it in this context.

Those sailboat terms always befuddled me, perhaps why I always hated them being around or near me.

I go up the Stockton Canal occasionally in small boats. Though ship traffic isn’t heavy, it’s not uncommon. Freight generally comes right down the middle so you learn to pick your side early and stay there for the pass. In June (well, not this year) there’s a race from Richmond to Stockton with 50-100 sailboats and it’s not a safety issue.

9. What is a narrow channel for the purposes of Rule 9? Are shipping safety fairways defined in 33 CFR 166 also Rule 9 fairways? What signals apply? A waterway is deemed a narrow channel or fairway by circumstances and conditions; and, more times than not, by a Court judgment when Rule 9was not heeded. Narrowness is relative; what is constraining for two container ships would not necessarily be narrow for two canoes. That said, better to error heeding Rule 9 than not.

Note, COLREG and Inland Rule 9 differ. Although both rules require that a vessel overtaking indicate her intentions to do so by sounding the appropriate signal prescribed in Rule 34©(i). In the Inland Rule, this only applies to power-driven vessels, and, also requires the power-driven vessel that is to be overtaken to signal as prescribed in Rule 34©(i) and (ii) to express agreement or as prescribed in Rule 34(d) to express doubt (as to be overtaken or in a crossing situation). In the COLREG Rule 9, the signal prescribed in Rule 34(d) is optional in an overtaking situation. However, the greatest difference amongst both is that Inland Rule 9(a)(ii) grants a right of way to a power-driven vessel operating in narrow channel or fairway on the [Great Lakes][Western Rivers], or [waters that have been specified by the Secretary] (which are currently denoted in [33 CFR 89], and proceeding downbound with a following current shall have the [right-of-way] over an upbound vessel, shall propose the manner and place of passage.

Although a fairway, shipping safety fairways are not necessarily Rule 9 narrow channels or fairways per se. Per [33 CFR 166.100] the purpose of these fairways (and anchorages) are to provide unobstructed approaches for vessels using U.S. ports; [33 CFR 166.105] defines them as a lane or corridor in which no artificial island or fixed structure, whether temporary or permanent, will be permitted; and, temporary underwater obstacles only under certain conditions.”

Got this off the Navcen. I was looking for the CFR reference for list of designated narrow channels and fairways. Some already referenced in COLREGs.

Right, I was describing the boat, not discussing the Rules. I forgot where I was posting, where a kid asking for help with his homework starts a 100 post plus discussion that has been going on for a week. I suppose “clown in the sailboat” was unnecessary as just clown would have sufficed. I’ll take this thread diversion as a reminder that nitpickers are gonna pick nits.


A little off-topic, but it does involve Narrow channel/fairway.

Back in 1964ish, my dad was captain of the USS Alvin C. Cockrell DD-366 and I was allowed to go on a dependents cruise in San Francisco Bay. As the ship was proceeding East up the Alameda Esturary to its dock, there was a WAFI West-bound, tacking across the channel. My recollection, as I was standing on the foredeck by the capstan, was the sound of Cockrell’s whistle, the ship vibrating as the aggressive backing-bell worked to stop the ship, and a beer can being launched up to the foredeck from the sail boat which was now becalmed because it was in the wind shadow of the ship. The 1st lieutenant on the bow bellowed down, something about how it was a class act. No contact with the boat-the DE’s backing bell worked real magic; especially when the quick water reached the sailboat!!!

That’s all I recall.


Fair enough, the clowns are always clowns. My first trip as mate was 4th of July weekend northbound from Norfolk to Baltimore towing a LST trailer barge. Fucking nightmare coming up on Annapolis. with all the sailboats, and me being green. I layed on that whistle quite a bit. Not so bad southbound the next day, but still sucked. I’ve hated sailboats ever since.

A lot of confusion here it seems.

A vessel under mechanical power (engines) is a power driven vessel even if it has sails up. And is required under the rules of the road to show a inverted cone dayshape in day light…

And narrow channel definition is subjective, it also requires the vessel claiming this situation to “only be able to navigate within that channel” so clearly not all commercial traffic meet this in all channels.

A COTP can post whatever he/she wants, but it does not mean it will stand up when challenged in an administrative hearing or in a civil suit… there are many factors at play… and if many vessels are in sight of each other it becomes even more complicated.

Yes there are a few sailors in small sail boats trying to prove Darwin’s theory… but there are also a few tug, OSV and other commercial vessel operators that do as well!

I have ac1600 ton Master Oceans, 3rd Unlimited that includes auxiliary sailing vessels. Master Towing Oceans and Western Rivers. Early in my career In the late 1980’s I use to day sail a 124’ schooner all over San Fransico Bay on a daily basis…some of the best ship handling experience possible… most large commercial traffic was very well behaved… and with vessel traffic service assisting communications were usually very good. I also pushed oil barges out of NY for 6 years all up and down east coast.

Yes on occasion a smaller sail boat would do something stupid, but I believe it was primarily ignorance not malice… we… the commercial sector, need to do more to educate the pleasure vessel community about the limitations and requirement of safely navigating ships and commercial tows in confined waters.

The best way to mitigate a risk is to remove it… the easiest way to remove ignorant pleasure boaters is to educate them.

That’s the one thing everyone here has in common.

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As in nothing but sails visible (from six feet up) all the way around the circle. Amazing. And probably no wind to speak of.

Not so subjective when USCG has published a MSIB that calls out certain waterways as “narrow channels or fairways.” I don’t know what courts you frequent, but I doubt a judge would dismiss that clear of a pronouncement from the experts in the field.

As we all know a MSIB from a COTP is not a law. It is guidance. The closet reference I’ve used recently is from the Journal if Maritime Law and Commerce Vol 41 No 1. (Link Below) Sorry for the long read…,but this has been pretty handy when putting other companies on notice or developing a response to accusations of a violation of the rule 9 or 10

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The confusion was with regards to the meaning of the term “sailboat” in informal conversation vs the meaning of “sailing vessel” as defined by the COLRGES

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That article is discussed by a working tugboater in the link I posted upthread:

There is, of course, a rule long since in place to “encourage” small vessels to refrain from being a navigational nuisance to others and a danger to themselves: specifically, section (b) of Rule 9 (the “Narrow Channels” rule) in the Collision Regulations. It reads “A vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway.” It sounds logical enough but there has always been a very serious flaw with it: namely that what constitutes a narrow channel or fairway has never been clearly defined. There are other flaws as well, but that is the big one. As it happens, a timely article titled Taking Narrow Channel Collision Prevention Seriously To More Effectively Manage Marine Transportation System Risk by Craig H. Allen, published in the Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce , covers this subject in great breadth and depth, and it should be required reading for every mariner.

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Had to weigh in here, as a former SF Bay WAFI and also familiar with Annapolis’ bit of the Chesapeake. Most (if not all) of the sail racing associations in SFO made it a rule that if a ship/ferry gave you the danger signal, you were DNF - which apparently reduced the problem significantly. Now for that clown tacking out the Stockton channel, no sympathy at all - that channel is well known to be busy with ships and tug/barges - as well as some obnoxious big power yachts. In my opinion, the ferries in SF Bay were the most accommodating I’ve ever encountered - those guys have the patience of Job.
As to Annapolis, it’s just about as bad for a sailing vessel trying to just pass the town - between folks who go sailing once a year, sailboat races with -really aggressive- nitwits, bright-green Navy Mids with mysterious orders and the perception that “there’s plenty of room”, combined with a couple of choke points makes that area a place you cannot ignore, especially in daylight.

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If we are discussing rules of the road… there are really only a few types of vessels… sailboat… sailing vessel … are the same in my opinion for the purposes of this string?

And it is flat out wrong to call a sailboat with its engine on anything other than a power driven vessel for the purposes of the rules of the road…

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Don’t believe anyone here would disagree with that. Except a sailboat owner clown type.


We weren’t. Not until hornblower blew his horn. To make both of you feel more at ease and less confused, I propose that henceforth, the word ‘sailboat’ to describe a vessel equipped with masts and sails be stricken from the English language since there is no such word in the COLREGS. In accordance with this readjustment of the English language to conform to the COLREGS, the common greeting of ‘Hey sailor’’ shall be replaced with ‘Hey, operator of sailing vessel’.

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I guess to keep the topic lively I could offer that as many commercial motor vessel operators are ignorant of sailing, sailing terms and sailing vessel characteristics as the “Blow Boaters” are of commercial vessels, terminology and limitations…

What does “rounding up and picking it up on the hip by the clock towers” mean to most blow boaters…

What does “ I will double jibe and heave to and let you pass my stern” mean to most commercial operators…

Amplify that by commercial traffic track lines dictated by shortest safe distance between two points…whereas sailing vessels have that plus the direction of the wind.

I still believe better education on everyone’s part is the key…

That OSG rig has a light draft of about 18-22 feet. Draft of the tug. Well over 30 -36 ’ loaded. Has his hands full with a light barge in any kind of wind, let alone a wayward sailboat or pleasure boat operator that has no clue . He needs that channel much more than our sailboat geniuses. That OSG gentleman has seen literally fire and rain in his career. My hat is off to him. I got out with my fingers and toes, and wish him the same. Rules of the road were not that compilcated for me. Danger signal means danger signal.