Five Basic Navigation Rules for Sailing Situations

Courtesy on the water makes sailing more fun for everyone. But beyond courtesy, there are Navigation Rules – like traffic laws – that can be enforced by authorities.

Navigation Rules help prevent accidents and apply to the smallest rowboat and the largest tanker. Less experienced sailors should stay clear of boating traffic and sail defensively.

Here are Five Basic Navigation Rules for Sailing Situations:

1. Port-tack boat gives way to the starboard-tack boat – upwind or downwind.

2. If two vessels might come close or collide, the “stand-on” vessel maintains course and speed. The “give-way” vessel alters course and/or speed to pass at a safe distance.

3. Windward boat gives way to the leeward boat on the same tack, whether sailing upwind or downwind.

4. Overtaking boat gives way to the vessel ahead, whether a sailboat or a powerboat.

5. Recreational powerboats generally give way to sailboats. It’s true most of the time. Stay away from working power vessels, fishing boats, ferries, tugboats, barges, and ships, especially in navigational channels.

For more from our Small Boat Certification Series and to get started on the right tack, visit our website to purchase “Learn Sailing Right.”