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Old 23-07-2019, 12:43   #1
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COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

The increased popularity of kayaks and paddleboards has led to an increase in the number of human-powered vessels. I myself enjoy getting on the water in these vessels when I am not sailing.


The responsibilities under the COLREGs of these vessels, and of the vessels encountering them, are not clear. This has been made worse by training and literature distributed by kayaking and rowing groups.


Here is the situation as I see it:
* Rule 18, which specifies that power generally gives way to sail and other vessel precedence, is silent on vessels powered by oars or paddles.

* Some sailing enthusiasts claim that oars are mechanical things, and therefore, rowboats are sort of like power boats and should just stay out of the way of sailbaots.

* Some rowing enthusiasts claim that rowboats, kayaks, etc., are limited in their ability to maneuver and therefore everyone should just stay out of their way.
* Some experienced skippers state that the "good seamanship" provisions of the COLREGS govern, and that the best practice is to stay well away from these little boats. (Whether or not this is a correct reading of the COLREGS, it doesn't work when there are 27 kayaks that have decided to go down the middle of the channel)
* Some authorities state that since oar/paddle powered vessels are not mentioned in rule 18, these vessels are equal in precedence to whatever vessels they encounter, and the usual meeting/crossing/overtaking rules apply.
* Some COLREGS experts note the lack of clarity in the COLREGS and the absence of case law, and just throw up their hands and say that no one knows.


Where is the truth in all this?


What should those of us who are also involved in paddlesports be saying to our friends in that hobby?


What is the best way to respond to competitive rowing groups who teach their members that rowers have right of way over all other vessels?
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Old 23-07-2019, 14:25   #2
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Re: COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

I was always under the impression, the intention, the spirit of the law is

the vessel with greater maneuverability,

greater power, the ability to increase speed at will

has greater responsibility of care over those with less.

Not least by travelling more slowly in areas with greater chances of collisions.
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Old 23-07-2019, 14:31   #3
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Re: COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

Having crewed competitively for over a decade, I recognize a paradox in that specific category.

Rowing eights can of course accelerate faster than most boat types, and also stop pretty sharply when necessary.

Their only purpose out there is to go as straight and fast as possible for 2000m.

Rarely are such courses laid out where they interfere with other traffic.

When simply training, to develop endurance, I would hope they'd be considerate?
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Old 23-07-2019, 14:54   #4
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Re: COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

I've read up on this a number or times, and I don't think you will find anything other than rule 2(b); ďdue regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from these Rules necessary to avoid immediate danger.Ē Even USCG/Homeland security FAQ sites only mention lights.


So it comes down to common sense. I paddle harbors all the time, and I keep out of the way. It's not hard to do. If I need to cross a channel, I wait until it is clear and cross at a 90 degree angle. I figure it is like being a pedestrian; if I wander out in the street, cars have a responsibility not to hit me, but I have a responsibility not to jay walk or be stupid in parking lots (which many pedestrians are).


An added problem is rented kayaks and SUPs with operators that are really not in control. I don't know what to say. They don't have the right of way, but you can't run them over, and they are clueless. Experienced paddlers can move well and understand the rules.



I think that's all there is.
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Old 23-07-2019, 16:34   #5
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Re: COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

Guys,

The USCG has explicitly addressed/answered this question. See FAQ 13 here.

"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."
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Old 23-07-2019, 17:10   #6
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Re: COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

After re-reading the rules, the ones that apply to all vessels (anything that floats and which could carry a person, e.g. rowboats, SUP's, kayaks, along with bigger things) seem to say: keep watch, stay out of each other's way, be careful, and try not to hit anything, even if you think you are the carry-on vessel. Quite vague, but definitely advice worth following - it's the law.
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Old 23-07-2019, 17:32   #7
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Re: COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

FWIW, my opinions (and you know what they say about opinions)



Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
* Some sailing enthusiasts claim that oars are mechanical things, and therefore, rowboats are sort of like power boats and should just stay out of the way of sailbaots.


I disagree that they are "like power boats" on the mechanical/machinery argument.


* Some rowing enthusiasts claim that rowboats, kayaks, etc., are limited in their ability to maneuver and therefore everyone should just stay out of their way.


Wrong in terms of COLREGs. If they were indeed more limited in their ability to manouver than, say, a sailboat, they would still need to display the appropriate RAM signals.


* Some experienced skippers state that the "good seamanship" provisions of the COLREGS govern, and that the best practice is to stay well away from these little boats. (Whether or not this is a correct reading of the COLREGS, it doesn't work when there are 27 kayaks that have decided to go down the middle of the channel)


I agree. The "good seamanship" provisions also dictate that their best practice is to stay well away from other vessels.





* Some authorities state that since oar/paddle powered vessels are not mentioned in rule 18, these vessels are equal in precedence to whatever vessels they encounter, and the usual meeting/crossing/overtaking rules apply.


They have no precedence.



(Because:

a. there is no such concept as precedence in COLRGEs.
b. other types of vessels are not obliged to give way to them by any rule.
)


Rules 2,5 and 6 apply.





* Some COLREGS experts note the lack of clarity in the COLREGS and the absence of case law, and just throw up their hands and say that no one knows.



Where is the truth in all this?


What should those of us who are also involved in paddlesports be saying to our friends in that hobby?


"Be safe and stay out of the of anything else on the water because you aren't covered by any specific rule in COLRGEs"


What is the best way to respond to competitive rowing groups who teach their members that rowers have right of way over all other vessels?


'You are wrong! Please provide a justification for what you are teaching"
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Old 23-07-2019, 17:40   #8
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Re: COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

"including the limitations of the vessels involved" seems to be the answer Jammer.
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Old 23-07-2019, 17:48   #9
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Re: COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

The reality is that when I am maneuvering through a crowded harbor and 300 rental SUPs and kayaker who have no idea of ColRegs, no idea of the limited maneuverability of larger boats and they arenít looking anyway, I just have to slow down, breath deeply and let them float slowly past.
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Old 23-07-2019, 18:48   #10
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Re: COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tayana42 View Post
The reality is that when I am maneuvering through a crowded harbor and 300 rental SUPs and kayaker who have no idea of ColRegs, no idea of the limited maneuverability of larger boats and they arenít looking anyway, I just have to slow down, breath deeply and let them float slowly past.

Exactly, Rules 2,5 and 6!
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Old 24-07-2019, 08:54   #11
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Re: COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

I think that it should be noted that all vessels including sailing vessels must take all action to avoid a collision. Yes you may be the stand on vessel, but you must take any necessary action to avoid a collision. If the other vessel is not taking action then you as the give way vessel must do so. This is the law.
With kayaks and canoes I would always act carefully around them and let them know that I am there with 5 short blasts if they look like they may be straying into dangerous situations.
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Old 24-07-2019, 08:56   #12
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Re: COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

FYI. The US Coast Guard has provided official published guidance in this regard in their answers to frequently asked questions, #13.

https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageNam...ulesFAQ#0.3_13

13. "Where do Kayaks and Canoes fit into the Navigation Rules? Kayaks and Canoes are a vessel under oars and are addressed specifically in Rule 25 (lights).

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.

Per Rule 25(d) they must be lit with 1 of 3 options between sunset and sunrise:

display the lights of a sailing vessel (per Rule 25 and Annex I); or
display an all-round white light (visible for at least 2 miles [per Rule 22] and meet the technical characteristics [i.e. color, intensity] per Annex I); or
have at hand either an electric torch (flashlight) or lighted lantern (oil or gas) which need not comply with Rule 22 or Annex I.
Preferably, option #3 provides similar lighting, intensity and characteristics of an all-around white light (versus a single beam of light);
may be mounted, worn, stowed, etc so long as it is ready at hand to warn other mariners; and,
should be used in ample time so as to warn others of danger and in manner consistent with Rule 36, so that it not embarrass any vessel (i.e. so as not to blind or otherwise negatively impact their navigation). See FAQ#14 (below) for a discussion regarding high intensity and flashing lights.

BTW, Keep your wake to a minimum when they are in view, your wake is considered a collision / allision if it causes damage or injury. You don't want to ding a dinghy.
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Old 24-07-2019, 09:10   #13
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Re: COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

This isn’t the COLREGs, but it’s an example of what is used in a different jurisdiction.

I mostly keep my 22' boat on a small lake controlled by the City of Minneapolis. No gas motors are allowed, so it’s a mixture of sailboats, fishing boats using trolling motors, kayaks, SUPs, canoes, et c.

The truth of the matter is the rental SUPs and kayaks are generally not paying attention and are often new to the water, so it's wise to do your best to avoid them. I generally adjust course to pass behind them.



However, the official City of Minneapolis rules are:

PB4-13. - Rowboats and canoes.
Rowboats and canoes must be kept out of the way of sailboats, and due diligence and caution must be used to avoid collisions with other boats. (Code 1960, As Amend., ß 1030.130)
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Old 24-07-2019, 09:20   #14
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Re: COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

From my home dock I need to go out through a short, but narrow, winding, unmarked channel which happens to be where a lot of stand up paddlers and kayaks, including newbies, love to travel and learn. I am always ready on the horn to let them know I am coming, although I try to call to them instead if I can. My favorite is when they are mid channel and I toot the horn and the stand up paddler becomes disconcerted and falls off the paddle. Unfortunately, the paddlers don't understand that I can't just stop, that if I lose all way the wind will blow me out of the channel and aground. I have avoided them so far, but it isn't easy.
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Old 24-07-2019, 09:33   #15
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Re: COLREGS and vessels propelled by oars or paddles

This thread should be about collision avoidance techniques, prudence and courtesy in the presence of vessels under oars. Any discussion of "right-of-way" is moot: no one has "right-of-way." Ever. Do a text search of the COLREGs for that phrase. You'll find it only once where is spells out that law enforcement vessels do NOT have right-of-way.

The whole point of the COLREGs is to spell out who should be expected to do what in a traffic conflict so that both (or more) vessel's actions are predictable -- to prevent a situation where both vessels either give way or stand on, making the conflict irresolvable. If there's a collision, unless one of the vessels couldn't possibly move because it was, for example, anchored, moored, aground, or otherwise not under command -- then both vessels will be found at fault.

I have many kayakers and paddle boarders in my harbor. At least dozens on a typical summer day. Most are tourists and are struggling to not fall in the water. I have to shepard nearly all of them. They have never heard of the COLREGs, and that's OK. They are entitled to enjoy the water as much as I.

The paddle boarders in particular are so focused on their balance that they won't turn to look behind themselves. The kayakers are struggling with directional control, and will come about and paddle directly into my path at close range.

I don't sail in the harbor. I motor instead when they are present. That's just another navigation limitation with which I as a mariner must cope. When motoring, I can reverse propulsion when needed, which I've had to do many times. I turn on my bow LED lights (used to avoid crab pots at night) because I've seen they take that clue to determine "which end," bow or stern, they are looking at. I keep my speed at a constant 3 knots (so I can stop in half the distance I'd need at 4.2 knots - the harbor speed limit), and I keep my hand on the throttle at all times. When I approach a paddle boarder, I give them a short beep on my horn so they'll know there's someone aside or behind. Good seamanship is a matter of prudence and using all the tools available to safely operate your vessel - not being able to quote the COLREGs chapter and verse at an accident investigation (an argument you will lose anyway).

I've noticed some people here on CF take a "legalistic" view of the COLREGs, evidenced by all the citations. Forget all that. The COLREGs are of no value when the other "vessel operator" can't be expected to abide by them. Legally and practically: just stay out of their way, let them know you're there, go slow enough so they and you have time to react, don't hit them, and use courtesy and common sense! Smile and wave so they don't get the impression that we're all a bunch of arrogant WAFIs*.

* Wind Assisted Freakin Idiot
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