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Old 31-07-2018, 14:14   #1
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The etiquitte of tacking in a channel--US Inland Rules

This came up as a side issue in another thread.

When wishing to sail through a channel, where the wind requires beating all or part of the way, what is the sophisticated and caring captain's approach to dealing with other traffic?

Is it appropriate to beat across the entire channel, or only the starboard side?

Under my reading of the inland USA version of the colregs, all upbound vessels, including sailing vessels, must give way to downbound power vessels in a narrow channel with a following current, in the Great Lakes and most major U.S. river systems except the Hudson. Is this correct? Is this true even when the current is insignificant or nominal, as is often the case in dry conditions in rivers where the pool depth and flow rate are controlled by locks and dams?

To what extent is it appropriate to perform an early tack for the convenience of smaller power craft that would otherwise be required to give way?


Are there situations where it is more appropriate to motor under bare poles out of deference to the needs of other traffic, even though sailing is possible, or is this misguided?


What additional considerations apply when winds are variable enough to result in occasional loss of steerageway?
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Old 31-07-2018, 14:51   #2
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Re: The etiquitte of tacking in a channel

Some answers/caveats:
- in some channels with lots of traffic, sailing is discouraged
- not all channels have a current; anyway I don't believe that ANY downbound vessel automatically has the right-of-way over everything else upbound unless it is large enough to be physically constrained or limited in its maneuverability in that channel.

We have one short channel around here that's 400 to 500 ft across; smaller sailboats often tack their way through and they go side to side... and traffic manages to avoid them. Waterways aren't the I-75.


I don't intend to hit anything, haven't yet, and our boat can turn on a dime, so if I'm sailing where I oughttta be sailing, I will stand on, and be deliberate in my moves and signals, til a collision seems likely if I don't yield. Motorboats have far more options than a boat under sail; etiquette (and rules) suggest that they need to keep clear.

If the winds are too light/variable, I will motor through. At a minimum I will have the outboard down and ready to start at short notice.
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Old 31-07-2018, 14:58   #3
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Re: The etiquitte of tacking in a channel--US Inland Rules

Great Kills NY channel is really narrow, I think 50' at the worst of it. You can get a knot or two of current for sure at times.

I don't think I've ever seen a sailboat actually tacking through the channel. It's a bit annoying when a boat decides to sail in such a tight channel and they seem to not have everything together - but that really isn't my problem.

I'm always under power in the channel, makes the most sense to me. Easy to avoid anyone under sail that way.

I think it is important to understand when to stand on, but these things will come down to "don't hit the guy."
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Old 31-07-2018, 16:02   #4
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Re: The etiquitte of tacking in a channel--US Inland Rules

If tacking along a fairway, I am quite happy to short tack if another vessel is approaching so that I am on the starboard edge of the fairway when we cross. It's simple politeness (as well as in compliance with Rule 9)
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Old 31-07-2018, 16:48   #5
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Re: The etiquitte of tacking in a channel--US Inland Rules

I sail from a narrow channel with a breakwall at the end. The depth constrains me to about 100 feet of usable channel. What I usually do is sail in as long as the wind is favorable to a straight shot to the area behind the trees. Nice place to drop the dacron in the wind shadow. If it is fairly light wind and there is no traffic, game on and bounce that sucker off the jetties. There is generally heavy traffic on nice days so as a matter of courtesy I don't tack across the channel and cause all sorts of confusion or ill will. I start my engine about 1/4 mile from the breakwall just in case. On the way out my engine is off once I clear the trees and the winds are favorable for a straight shot out. Again if no traffic and an unfavorable wind tack like a maniac to get out usually with engine at idle in neutral, just in case.
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Old 31-07-2018, 17:58   #6
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Re: The etiquitte of tacking in a channel--US Inland Rules

The downbound vessel shall propose the place and manner of passage.

A sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a power driven vessel that must remain in a narrow channel. If you are sailing at 4kts and a big tow is coming up behind you at 6kts, you are impeding. Get out of the way.

If you are smart you will make a passing agreement by whistle or vhf when you are within sight of the other vessel.

If you are even smarter, you will have an engine ready for immediate maneuvering, even if it is just an outboard.

You can also wait for a favorable wind and current so you can avoid tacking, and remain on your starboard side, meeting red to red.
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Old 31-07-2018, 19:35   #7
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Re: The etiquitte of tacking in a channel--US Inland Rules

How is "downbound" defined when not in a river? Like in the short, artificial channels associated with many marina entrances, or in passages like the Oakland Estuary, where both ends of the channel are open into the same body of water (SF Bay)?

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Old 31-07-2018, 20:28   #8
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Re: The etiquitte of tacking in a channel--US Inland Rules

I believe that "downbound" is specifically in reference to rivers and their currents. I've never heard of it applied to tidal waterways with respect to tidal current. Ever.

As for the ettiquite of it...it's a judgement call. Yes, you can do it, but if you force other traffic to stop and start and veer around you and so forth, you're not being a good citizen and the CG could well stop you and read you the riot act.

It's also a matter of where you are. In Annapolis you have a whole fleet of boats sailing up Spa Creek to the finish line three nights a week. And then most of them sail back to their slips, wherever they are. That's just the culture. Try and do the same thing in channels frequented mostly by power boats and I guarantee you that you'll get shouted at.

Overall? Don't do it unless you're not going to be inconveniencing more than one or two boats. IF you have an engine that is. If you don't have one, and you need to get up the channel, well then you have the right to do it unless you're really making a hash of it.

Sean on Alexandra sailed all the way through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, tacking pretty much at least half the way. He even waved to the Coast Guard as I recall. If they'll let him do it there, they'll let you do it anywhere...depending on who's on duty that day and how proficient you look.
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Old 31-07-2018, 21:13   #9
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Re: The etiquitte of tacking in a channel--US Inland Rules

Most all sailboats here going upwind in a channel, even if it is mile wide, motor. Yet, sailboats tacking in a mile-wide channel create no problem. It does get tricky on Wednesday evenings when sailboats are jockeying for the start line in Mare Island Straight near my home marina, crisscrossing the marina entrance. Particularly since the sailboats don't hold their courses as stand-on vessels should.
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Old 31-07-2018, 21:44   #10
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Re: The etiquitte of tacking in a channel--US Inland Rules

I believe the "stand on vessel" must maintain it's course until the meeting/passing is resolved. That indicates to me, no tacking or jibing.
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Old 31-07-2018, 21:48   #11
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Re: The etiquitte of tacking in a channel--US Inland Rules

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
How is "downbound" defined when not in a river? Like in the short, artificial channels associated with many marina entrances, or in passages like the Oakland Estuary, where both ends of the channel are open into the same body of water (SF Bay)?

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Old 31-07-2018, 22:29   #12
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Re: The etiquitte of tacking in a channel--US Inland Rules

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
How is "downbound" defined when not in a river? Like in the short, artificial channels associated with many marina entrances, or in passages like the Oakland Estuary, where both ends of the channel are open into the same body of water (SF Bay)?

Jim

The term "Downbound" is only relevant to the Great Lakes, Western Rivers, or waters listed in Code of Federal Regulations Title 33Chapter ISubchapter EPart 89Subpart B → 89.25 and apparently Oakland Estuary is not included. So either vessel may initiate a passing agreement, and the other vessel can concur, or propose a different passage. At any rate, both vessels need to agree to the same thing, obviously. On other waters, common sense should dictate that the upbound vessel can maneuver more effectively in the current than the downbound vessel and so should defer to the other vessel so far as practical. This is not specifically codified in the rules, just common sense and prudent seamanship.
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Old 01-08-2018, 08:02   #13
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Re: The etiquitte of tacking in a channel--US Inland Rules

Forget the rules! Unless you have lost your engine power and have called a "Securite" as you approach the channel, there is no reason for a 25 foot plus sailboat to sail a channel when you have adequate engine power(small one designs without an engine are the exception when there is not significant traffic). Hot dog racers and inconsiderate prima donnas give all sailors a bad name. They jeopardize all boating traffic. Save the sailing for the open water. Good luck and safe sailing . . . Rognvald
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Old 01-08-2018, 08:32   #14
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Re: The etiquitte of tacking in a channel--US Inland Rules

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Originally Posted by rognvald View Post
Forget the rules! Unless you have lost your engine power and have called a "Securite" as you approach the channel, there is no reason for a 25 foot plus sailboat to sail a channel when you have adequate engine power(small one designs without an engine are the exception when there is not significant traffic). Hot dog racers and inconsiderate prima donnas give all sailors a bad name. They jeopardize all boating traffic. Save the sailing for the open water. Good luck and safe sailing . . . Rognvald
+1

PS. upbound, downbound ..... red right returning would govern stand on and
give way vessels.
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Old 01-08-2018, 09:15   #15
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Re: The etiquitte of tacking in a channel--US Inland Rules

For 30 plus years, we have professionally sailed in Newport Harbor, and the channel changes a bit from fairly wide to narrow.

The distance is a little over 3 nm from the channel entrance to our slips the far end of the main channel.

Especially on weekends and summer days, we have probably several hundred vessels of all types to deal with on a constant basis , and we are undersail. Or sometimes motor .

Sailing, we tack across the harbor and back many, many times as we are going into the wind.

In that 3 mile narrow channel, We have vessels undersail, motor vessels, yacht club racing fleets, dingy races, small boat sailing classes, ferry boats, unskilled sailing and motor vessels, professional fishing boats, tour boats, power boats on booze cruises, stand up paddle boarders, etc, etc. If it floats it is out there in that channel.

Here is how we handled it,

Followed the basic rules of the road..if possible.

Know where all traffic is....360 degrees around us

Situational awareness of all vessels. Their skippers and abilities and sail trim for sailing vessels. I want to know the skill of the other vessels crew . Many have no clue.

Planning ahead:

Doing our best to think ahead, and plan to tack early, or maybe take them on their stern, and also do not get trapped in the channel close to the several thousand docked vessels and not be able to get out of there luffing up and no forereach.

I look in the eyes of any problem boat skipper or helmsman, is he paying attention, looking for traffic, following the rules of the road. The answer to that is it varies greatly.

I also have no problem talking to other skippers in close quarters.

I always preface any verbal communication with the word

SKIPPER.

Skipper...hold you course !

Skipper I will fall of to your stern

If possible when i have the right of way, I hold course and speed until I have to tack.

But, again, at times I will tack early to avoid any possible collision.

If we are returning from sailing 26 to 33 miles from Catalina to newport, we will roll in the jib and douse the main. And motor up the channel avoiding the sailing vessels and thinking ahead at all times.

We can make an early and ample change of course, or even under power stop for a racing fleet to clear when they are crossing the channel.

Never had a collision .

Have some tales about close calls , but that might be for another time.
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