Vessels under oars and COLREGS

Is it? A kayak is a power driven vessel.

Interesting interpretation of the relevant part of Rule 3. Maybe if a robot is doing the paddling? Got a cite to back it up?

“Propelled by machinery”


And this one? Also power driven?


I know of a case on the Columbia River some years ago where an intoxicated yachtsman, rowing his dinghy back to his anchored boat late at night, was cited by the local Sheriff’s River Patrol for operating a watercraft under the influence of alcohol. His blood alcohol was pretty high and they successfully made the citation stick, resulting in a healthy fine and a ding on his driving record, believe it or not. His attorney told me that “propelled by mechanical means” had something to do with the definition of “operating”, and that the judge accepted the prosecutor’s assertion that rowing qualified!

See. Told you @jdcavo :joy:

Only safe way would appear to be paddling with your hands! :roll_eyes:

I’ve heard of people getting picked up for drunk driving on a bicycle. I’m told that they cannot arrest you for riding a horse or a dog sled while drunk. Nor for walking drunk. YMMV

I know people who have been pinched for operating a motorboat drunk. I’ve never heard of a rowboat case.

The result of a drunk driving case, particularly if operating an “unusual vehicle” , is likely to turn on how much you can afford to spend for a very good attorney who is a drunk driving specialist with a strong trial record. Also, if you can present a sympathetic image, you only need one drinker on the jury who refuses to vote for conviction.

Nonetheless, avoid operating anything if you have been drinking.

I agree. The story was related to me by a friend who is an attorney who specializes in that very thing and gets big fees for it. The guy had been referred to him for that reason. But he didn’t get him off.

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No. Rule 3(b) defines power-driven vessel as a vessel driven by MACHINERY. Vessels driven by oars are mentioned in Rule 25 (lighting) but not in the Steering & Sailing Rules. Prior to the 1972 revisions, vessels driven by oars WERE mentioned (remember the old mnemonic – “steam gives way to sail; sail gives way to oars”?).

RYA legal department (who are pretty good with COLREGS) said this about it:

"In my view, the express inclusion of a reference to “a vessel under oars” in Rule 25 and the fact that this Rule applies different requirements for vessels under oars from those applied to power-driven vessels suggests that the expression “power-driven vessel” does not include a vessel under oars.

“I acknowledge that the crossing rules you refer to do not expressly include reference to vessels under oars. I believe, however, that vessels under oars would nevertheless be covered by the requirement to keep a look-out, to use all available means to determine whether a risk of collisions exists and to take action to avoid a collision.”

The Key West water cops famously did (or still do?) watched a waterfront bar frequented by live-aboards in the anchorage and would bust them for drunk boating as they made their way back to their boats.
This has nothing to do with COLREGS at all, it is a state thing and shows up the same on your record as if you were piloting the Exxon Valdez or a schoolbus.
I have been in traffic court when someone had a meltdown and screamed at the judge after being busted for drunk driving his 10 speed too and the judge opined he would be happy to bust anyone drunk on a riding lawnmower if he got such a case.

  • seeing as how cars, boats, bikes, airplanes, and probably Zeppelins as well all seem to feed into the same drunk people database, if you value your various licenses be careful out there :wink:

When you don’t study your Rules of the road:
At least the vessel that caused the collision is sending over crew to help control flooding.

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wasn’t all that serious about this when I kind of started it. But a semi serious question now - how would the group interpret 17b in this circumstace ? Is a row boat a “give way vessel” - if not, what is it ?

I’d consider it to be a “special circumstances” sort of thing. For example, triremes, biremes, etc. would seem to be power vessels for all practical purposes. IIRC the bye-laws for the Thames explicitly classify them (vessels under oars, that is, not ancient Greek warships) as power vessels for the purposes of the rules.

My general opinion is that in confined waters, a rowboat needs to keep clear, just as a sailing yacht would need to keep clear of a box boat. Conversely, in open waters the rowboat has almost no ability to control the crossing, and so the larger vessel should give way.

The USCG’s take is:

Although a vessel under oars may be lit as a sailing vessel, one should not infer that they are considered to be a sailing vessel for other Rules (i.e. Rule 9, 10, 12, 18 or 35). Ultimately, the issue of whether a vessel under oars is the give way or stand-on vessel would fall to what would be required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case Rule 2, and, the notion that they are less able than most other vessels.

Rule 25 would similarly suggest that at least in reduced visibility, when it’s not possible to get a good handle on a rowboat’s capabilities, one should default to assuming they are limited in some fashion and thus given space.

The COLREGS are not the only laws that mariners have to take notice of as referenced to the actions of the Key West water police.
The Bylaws and local regulations have just as much force as any and who gives way to who is normally covered by some law as small craft shall not impede the navigation of vessels of more than 500 Tonnes etc.
I am sure that a MGM production involving a 500 Tonne vessel under oars would be treated as a special case.
I rest my case.

From a person who, among other things, regularly sends crews out in boats under sail-and-oars for a week at a time:

Top speed for any oared boat you are likely to encounter (other than a racing shell) is 2 knots. Even kayaks are faster than an oared boat. To anything with a motor, an oared boat at full speed is virtually drifting.

If an oared boat is directly ahead of you it may very well try to maneuver out of the way, and given enough distance from you may be able to crawl to safety. But don’t count on it, because…

Oared boats are hampered by wind and wave. A strong breeze from ahead drops them down to a knot or less. In even a one-foot chop, especially from abeam, the oars alternately catch wind and catch crabs, with a loss in propulsion. Because of this, an oared boat in a channel with lots of boat wakes is not going anywhere fast, and the more big traffic passes an oared boat, the less able it is to get out of anyone’s way.

And, of course, if there no helmsman the crew is facing backwards, so don’t expect an efficient watch from them.

The oared boats we train with (up to 21 feet long, wood, with mast, four person crew, no motor) are completely invisible to radar. The addition of a radar reflector makes them visible no more than a quarter mile away. To solve this safety issue we issue the boat an AIS transponder. Which is useful if all traffic carried AIS receivers. Many boats do not.

(Racing shells are a whole other story. They are faster. Often they have chase boats shepherding them re: collision. Not that that helps all the time. The only time in my career I’ve had a collision is with a racing shell, and I myself was in an oared boat. I was taking a couple of trainees rowing up the Ship Canal in Seattle at night. I was at the tiller. I saw a group of shells rapidly overtaking us, accompanied by a chase boat, and blew an air horn as warning. Nevertheless a two-man shell rammed our stern at full speed, knocking off our stern light).

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I am sure that a MGM production involving a 500 Tonne vessel under oars would be treated as a special case.

The Olympias, with what I think is safe to call an un-trained crew, was able to hit sprint speeds of 9 knots, and could turn 180° in ~2.5 boat lengths. I think a leisurely cruising speed for her type back in the day was about 6 knots.

If you look at the Wikipedia article on Olympias it states her normal rowing speed was just a little over 2-knots. Which is, oddly, about the same for a modern, small, oared boat.

An oared boat’s speed is often overestimated, and authorities often fail to differentiate between speed with wind and without, and between sprinting and just going along.

Example: One of our oared boats going downwind with a 15-20 knot wind can easily reach 4 knots with neither oars or sail, as long as the mast is up (what we call ‘barepole’). That’s twice the speed of rowing, and about average speed under sail, but with neither. The boat steers fine within its downwind range. (You often can’t keep the sail up in strong winds on small oared boats, because of the danger of capsizing).

Which brings up a COLREG question. If you have a sail-and-oar boat underway at full speed without sails or oars, is she a sailboat or a boat under oars?

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