Please people - we are discussing the marine
world here and such rules and regulations
that apply to navigating on water
outside the boundary of rivers and other inland waters - - THERE IS NOT SUCH THING AS RIGHT OF WAY!!!!!!! in the marine
world. That is a land based concept
. Get it out of your head
and then you can understand the rules and concepts that the COLREGS embody. The COLREGS were specifically designed and written to avoid any inference of "right of way".
- - COLREGS and other marine inland rules - where written for two time related scenerios as concerns possible collisions. First there is the "before it is too late to maneuver" - and secondly, the "last ditch" requirements. All of the rules concerning avoiding collision for the first time span involve the simple concept
of the boat "most able to maneuver" becomes the "give way" vessel and stays away from the boat least able to maneuver - the "stand on vessel." We simplify this concept in the real marine world as the slang expression "rule of tonnage." The bigger and heavier a vessel is, the more difficult it is for it to maneuver - and - when "very large" meets "very little" it is highly likely that visual and radar
will not "see" the little boat as it becomes lost
in sea clutter and large waves and swells. So under the "slang rule
of tonnage" you "give way" to the bigger vessel. All the sailboat to sailboat rules follow this same "least able to maneuver" is the "stand on vessel" concept.
- - The concept of the "last minute" time span, the COLREGS are very clear - do whatever is necessary - as quoted above in the Rule
17 (and others) - to get out of the way and avoid a collision. The concepts contained in the COLREGS are simple and elegant. The language is written to keep the lawyers busy but for sailors, once translated becomes easy to follow - and they make sense!
- - In many marine collisions, all the vessels are at fault! The simple fact of a collision makes both vessels "guilty." The maritime courts only argue about the percentages of fault by each party so as to assess monetary damages. In one of the most famous cruiser versus freighter collisions many years ago in the southwest Pacific - a family
of 3 or 4 - husband, wife and children
- were flat out run down by a Korean freighter in the middle of the night. Husband and the children
were killed outright, the wife survived. The Korean freighter was running without lights, radar
turned off, and reportedly "seaman last class" was the bridge crew on watch. You don't have enough fingers to add up all those violations of COLREGS. On the sailboat the wife was on watch, everybody else was asleep. The wife went below to make an entry in the logbook and fix some coffee. She admitted to being below for 5 minutes. When returning to the cockpit
she reported all she could see was black steel
and then the chaos of collision. She and the freighter admitted in maritime court that the freighter made a complete circle back to the collision site but the freighter reported no visible debris or survivors so continued on to Korea
. The wife was able to deploy the liferaft
as her vessel sank and she drifted for a long time before being rescued.
- - Bottom line - she and the freighter were declared "equally at fault" and she recovered only a fraction of her monetary losses. The reasons - she was not "on watch" and "did not take action to avoid a collision."
- - In this case Jessica and her father both stated that she was down below and not "on watch." As soon after the collision as they could get their brains re-engaged they stopped making any statements what-so-ever about her performance at sea that would be "incriminating".
- - Sorry about "shouting" at the beginning, but anybody and everybody who takes to the oceans/seas needs to erase from their mental processes any "land-based" concepts and understand the maritime concepts contained in the COLREGS. Only then will collisions such as this incident be greatly reduced. Recapping, the vessel best able to maneuver "gives way", the other vessel is the "stand on" vessel with the responsibility to "not confuse" the "give way" vessel by making course and speed changes. As things progress - both vessels regardless of their ability to maneuver or designation as "stand on" or "give way" are required to do anything and everything necessary to avoid collision.