Originally Posted by Tony B
Nothing personal, just playing here.
I have seen written many times on various forums
that there is a difference between Right of Way and Stand-on/Give way. I don't see any difference. Under normal conditions the stand-on vessel is to maintain course and speed. To me,this is a right of way under another name. The Give way vessel is to yield or surrender the right of way. To me ,the words are different but mean the same. It's just a matter of samantics. The rules are the same in avoidance of a collision
between the two regardless of what you call it.
Once you determine that a collision is inevitable, then you both must take evasive action, which has no longer anything to do with stand-on/ROW. If you both followed the rules, then the possibility of a collision should never have existed because one guy would have yielded to the other long before that. Who yields? Normally it should be the Give Way vessel because he does not have the ROW.
Sorry, there is a very important difference between having the right of way and being a stand-on vessel. Understanding the difference is crucial to understanding how to behave in traffic at sea.
When you have the right of way, it means that you can drive with impunity, and the responsibility is 100% on other vehicles without the right of way to avoid you. So if you are rolling down the highway you are not required to keep an eye on every car standing at a stop sign waiting to drive into the highway. Of course the principle of defensive driving means you should always have one eye open in case someone pulls out in front of you, in case you might somehow swerve and avoid him, but in reality if you are making 100 km/h down the highway there is almost nothing you can do -- it is really up to the other guy not to pull out in front of you. That is right of way.
Being the stand-on vessel is really very different. You don't have any "right of way" at sea -- that means, you have no right to just proceed with impunity and just expect give-way vessels to be 100% responsible for getting out of your way, as they would if they were cars and on land. That is because the Colregs are different from traffic rules on land -- both helmsmen are always responsible for avoiding a collision. Being the stand-on vessel means you are supposed to hold your course and speed at first to give the other helmsman a chance to work out a maneuver and make the first move. But since we are not talking about right of way, what happens next is different -- if the other helmsman does not or cannot execute a maneuver which resolves the situation, then you must maneuver yourself. And if you don't do it -- then you are also at fault.
You have no right to just start maneuvering willy-nilly if you are the stand-on vessel -- you screw up what the other helmsman is doing. By "willy-nilly", I mean however you feel like manuevering, without regard to the Colregs, in a way which the ship helmsman cannot predict. Some people are recommending this, and I am obligated to say that this is wrong, unseamanlike, and dangerous. "Just ignore the Colregs and get the hell out of the way" is poor seamanship and contrary to the rules, and the kind of behavior which this attitude engenders is why commercial seaman call us "WAFIs". That is the classical WAFI attitude. I guess a typical scenario would be like this:
"Oh, Joe, did you see that big ship right there?" "Oh f*ck! Where did he come from! Turn! Turn!" "I am turning!" "No! No! Turn the other way! The other way! Quick! No, no! Turn harder!" "Oh hell, he's turning too!" Crunch.
It occurs to me that one gap between the WAFI faction here and those arguing for the importance of the rules, is that these two groups are thinking about entirely different distances. The Colregs faction is talking about what you do 4 and 5 miles out; the WAFI faction is talking about one or two cables
-- entirely different situations. Maybe it would be worthwhile to put the whole discussion into the context of our tactics in general to avoid other traffic.
Let's start with one question: Do you have a hand-bearing compass
in your cockpit
at all times, and do you know how to use it to determine whether you are on a dangerous intersecting course with another vessel from a safe distance away? If you don't, then you are a menace if you sail anywhere you might have to share the ocean with big ships. It means that you won't even notice you have a potential problem until it's too late to do anything seamanlike to solve it.
Avoiding ships typically starts 5 or 6 miles out. Large commercial vessels travel at different speeds, but 20 knots is not uncommon. 5 miles is 15 minutes at that speed; 2 miles is 6 minutes. The vector created by your own boat's motion may reduce this amount of time. In open water, large commercial vessels will see you 90% or more of the time (you do have a radar
reflector, don't you?), and the guys on the bridge will start calculating the crossing situation about 5 or 6 miles out. They will typically use a system called ARPA, which will automatically calculate a CPA using their radar data. And they WILL maneuver if they are the give-way vessel. You will make their lives a lot easier if you will hold still and let them do their jobs. At 5 or 6 miles out, it's not any big deal for them -- it might be a course correction of just a few degrees to pass safely behind you.
Most WAFIs never even know this is happening, because they don't pay attention to ships that far away, never know they are on a dangerous intersecting course, and never know that the ship has made a subtle course correction to resolve the situation. They just bob along in blissful ignorance -- and provided they happen to be the stand-on vessel AND if they don't make any unexpected manuevers, then that's ok, I guess -- in any case, it's better than if they start turning this way and that, making it impossible for the commercial seaman to calculate a safe course.
What you should be doing, if you want to graduate to non-WAFI status, is the same thing the commercial seamen are doing -- calculating the encounter from a safe distance away, using your hand bearing compass
, and figuring out who is give-way and who is stand-on, and what the appropriate maneuver should be. If you are the give-way vessel, then you should initiate a course change by 3 or 4 miles out, preferably to take you safely behind the other vessel (passing ahead is not good unless you have a much larger margin of error -- preferably more than a mile).
If you are the stand-on vessel, you should hold your course and speed as you are REQUIRED to do by the Colregs, and give the other guy a chance to make the first move. Meanwhile, you are taking bearings every two or three minutes in order to verify that the other guy actually did initiate a course change. If by say 2 miles out, you are still on an intersecting course, then you need to make your own move. It should be one decisive move, and it should be a large enough course change that it is obvious to the other helmsman what you did. Tacking onto a reciprocal course is good (as long as you are 100% certain that the other vessel has not turned towards you!!!!); just heaving to to stay out of the way might be best of all. Do NOT call on the VHF
if you are already two miles or less away -- it's already too late for chatter -- you will just waste time. Make a decisive move.
All this should be done before you are much less than 2 miles away -- one mile away is already close quarters and dangerous. If you find yourself on an intersecting course with a ship at less than one mile away, then you have screwed the pooch big time. Whether you were the stand-on or the give-way vessel already doesn't matter -- you screwed up if you end up that close. It should simply never happen.
I'm afraid that our anti-Colregs faction here are thinking about encounters at two or three cables
distance. And so in such cases, they are actually right -- it's already too late for seamanlike manuevers and time to save your a$$ however you can. By this distance you can forget being the stand-on vessel, because a large commercial vessel cannot stop or turn fast enough to do anything at such a distance. And if because of some idiotic sailing by some WAFI a large commercial vessel finds itself on an intersecting course with a sailboat at two or three cables away, it WILL hold its speed and course -- exactly to allow the sailboat to use its greater maneuverability to resolve the situation, since the large commercial vessel already can't do anything about it at all, and by this distance may not even be able to see the WAFI.
So maybe like this we can bridge the gap a little -- once you are a couple of cables away from a commercial ship on an intersecting course, then forget about being the stand-on vessel. You have already long since screwed the pooch, and you need to get away however you can. I think that is what some of the anti-Colregs faction were trying to say, and they are right -- to this extent.
But dealing with ship encounters properly starts far earlier than that. And requires a lot more knowledge and technique than just one rule like "Screw the Colregs! Just get the hell out of the way!".
It's a shame we don't have more commercial seamen on here. I know a few, and their complaint about us WAFIs is always the same -- that we don't know the rules, and that we manuever erratically and unpredictably. They avoid other ships and boats all the time -- it's what they do
on the bridge day in and day out. If we would only follow the rules, maneuver predictably, the way we are supposed to, and hold still when we are supposed to so that they can work out their own maneuvers, we will make their lives much easier, and ours much safer.