Follow up to last week’s post about the City of Dana Point making up some rules that conflict with the Inland Rules or COLREGS. I wrote that the only place in the Rules that refers to human powered craft was in Rule 25, where there is a reference to “a vessel under oars” showing the same lights as a sailboat. I deduced, perhaps erroneously, that therefore the Rules would deem a paddled boat as a sailboat in all cases. Well, it just seemed so ambiguous…. so I did some digging, found some stuff that you might find interesting.
Let’s head over the the USCG Navigation Center main web page, where miraculously, someone has anticipated not only my question, but follows my own logic right through to my mistaken inference of the Rules.
13. Where do Kayaks and Canoes fit into the Navigation Rules? Neither the International nor Inland Navigation Rules address “kayaks” or “canoes” per se, except in regards to “vessels under oars” in Rule 25 regarding lights. One could infer that a “vessel under oars” should be treated as a “sailing vessel” since it is permitted to display the same lights as one, but, ultimately the issue of whom “gives way” would fall to what would be “required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case” (Rule 2).
Ah, good old Rule #2 – RESPONSIBILITY. That is the great thing about the Rules, they begin by saying “Don’t blame the Rules if you step in some shit.”
So, back to Dana Point, CA. Now I’m thinking that perhaps the City of Dana Pt. have not so much rewritten the Rules to suit their desire to control Human Powered Craft as they could assert that they have merely defined the ordinary practice or special circumstances for this situation. Seems vague, though, doesn’t it? For the record, I’m all for telling paddle board operators to stay the heck out of everyone’s way.
Now, here is an interesting twist on all of it. Most harbors on the left coast are inside a Demarcation Line, and therefor fall under the INLAND RULES; so they are pretty much stuck with them as written. On the right coast, especially in New England, many harbors are not so marked and fall under the COLREGS (International Rules). A city whose harbor falls within that jurisdiction would enjoy a very specific loophole to make up their own rules. COLREGS Rule #1(b):
Nothing in these Rules shall interfere with the operation of special rules made my an appropriate authority for roadsteads, harbors, rivers, lakes or inland waterways connect with the high seas and navigable by seagoing vessels. Such special rules shall conform as closely as possible to these Rules.
Ed Note: The Rules don’t use the term ‘right of way’ except in one very specific circumstance. For extra credit, do you know when you would actually have the ‘right of way’ under the rules? Kent and Richard are not allowed to answer.