How to tell if you’re on a collision course

Capt. Katherine Redmond


How can you tell if you are on a collision course with another vessel?

Let’s suppose you’re taking a little cruise on your local waters, and you see a boat off your starboard side, about 1,000 feet away. It’s angled slightly in your direction, but you cannot tell if there’s any eventual danger of collision.

Early warning

Instead of waiting until you get close to the vessel, you can obtain an early warning by locating a fixed object on your boat, such as a cleat or stanchion, and visually aligning it with the other boat. After a few minutes, moving along at the same speed and the same direction, try to align the same fixed object with the vessel on your starboard side. If the object is at the same alignment as before, your vessels will eventually collide. Therefore, you must change speed or direction to avoid close contact.

Changing course

When changing course, do so emphatically. If your turn will be to port, leave no doubt in any vessel operator’s mind as to where you are heading. Although you may have learned the navigation rules on meeting, passing and crossing in America’s Boating Course, not everyone knows or obeys the rules. Stay alert to other vessels’ movement, even when you have the right of way. Keep in mind that you must do all you can to avoid a collision, even if it means breaking the rules!

Be a Good Samaritan

Be aware that under the “Good Samaritan Law,” you are legally obligated to help another boater in distress, unless it puts you, your crew or your vessel in danger. This law has been practiced on the water for time immemorial, and it protects you as well as any other boater who needs help.

Capt. Katherine Giampietro Redmond of Palm Beach Sail & Power Squadron/8 is a NASBLA-honored boating safety instructor with a Six-Pack Towing Captain’s License. Author of “The Chartracker Navigation Guides” and “7 Steps to Successful Boat Docking,” she created to provide boating guidance for women.

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