Why Do Stink Pots Break the Rules? - 02/11/2009
Dear Capt. Steve,

I’m a sailboater and I’m just about fed up with you stink potters failing to give the right of way. Recently, I was tacking back and forth across the channel against a stiff headwind, when here comes a ferryboat that just about runs me over. He slowed but never stopped and never altered course to avoid me. I had to come hard about to avoid hitting HIM. And this is coming from a professional. The Rules of the Road state that powerboats shall give the right of way to sailboats, so why are powerboaters so thick-headed about this?

David S. Block Island, MA.

Stink Pot
“You move!” “No...you move” “I’m not moving, you move!”
“If I have to come down there…”

First of all, David, lighten up.

Maybe you sail boaters feel like we treat you as second rate citizens but that’s because you have it coming and your question is a prime example of why.

You’re tacking out of the channel and the ferry fails to give way to you. While the rules do state that power driven vessels shall keep out of the way of a sailing vessel (Rule 18a in your program, if you’re following along) there are circumstances that take this right of way privilege away from sail boaters, only sail boaters never bother to read that far into the rules. In your case (here it comes), you said that you were in a channel. Now Rule 9b comes into play. “A vessel of less than 20 meters (you) or a sailing vessel (you again) shall not impede the passage of a vessel that can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway.” The reason for this is simple. Ferries are usually very heavily burdened with the weight of their passengers, and perhaps their cars, and as such, are very hard to maneuver without much power on. Any prevailing wind won’t help matters either. They need thrust from the propellers acting against the rudders to maneuver, and the more of it the better. Thus, when in a narrow channel, stopping for a clueless sail boater tacking back and forth can spell disaster. The fact that your ferry captain slowed is a credit to his courtesy and instinct in seeing that you were going to be reluctant to give way.

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