A Motorboat Is Crossing Paths With a PWC. What Action Should Be Taken?

Sailing a boat is just like driving a car – there are a set of rules you must follow. If you operate on busy waterways, ignorance is a costly mistake you can’t afford.

Many states worldwide have strict rules and regulations governing leisure boating. Besides the local rules, there are some international protocols every boater should be familiar with before sailing on waterways.

Suppose a motorboat is crossing paths with a PWC. What action should be taken? what action needs to be taken when a motorboat crosses paths with a PWC? 

The answer is that the vessel on the left-hand (port) side should give way.

Read on to learn more about actions to take when a motorboat and a PWC are on overlapping paths:

What Is a PWC?

A PWC (personal watercraft) is a recreational water vessel mainly powered by an inboard jet drive. 

Popularly known as a water scooter, a PWC’s design allows the individual to sit, stand, or kneel on it while operating.

What To Do When a Motorboat Crosses Paths With a PWC?

According to ColRegs Rule 15 (Crossing Rule), the vessel on the left-hand (port) should stay out of the way. The rule applies when two power-driven vessels (like a motorboat and PWC) are at risk of colliding when crossing.

While such events frequently occur, avoiding a close-quarter situation is too often a good idea.

A PWC requires similar treatment as a motorboat, meaning the rules are the same for both vessels. Both operators have equal responsibility to follow the rules and avoid an accident.

When a motorboat crosses from the port (left) side and the PWC from the starboard (right) side, then the motorboat is the make-way vessel. The operator must slow down and let the PWC pass to prevent a collision, as the PWC is smaller.

The PWC (vessel on the starboard side) should be allowed to cross first. It should speed up and try to cross before the motorboat.

Any slower-moving vessel (a motorboat or PWC) should give way.

If the situation allows, the motorboat operator should drive right around the PWC’s stern rather than crossing it.

While going around the stern may sometimes be impossible, you should follow it if the situation allows. That’s if the crossing is likely to cause a collision.

Which Operator Has the Right of Way on Waterways?

Understanding the basics regarding who needs to do what when two power-driven boats approach one another is paramount. It is a safety practice each operator or captain must master.

Below are some guidelines to help you:

Give-Way Craft

A give-way craft is a vessel not given a right-of-way. This boat needs to take early, significant measures to steer away from the stand-on boat.

It should stop and alter the direction and speed to avoid a collision.

As a give-way craft operator, you must signal your intentions to the captain on the stand-on craft. You must also drive your boat around the stand-on craft in a safe manner.

Stand-On Craft

A stand-on craft is a vessel that enjoys the right-of-way on the waters. It can maintain its speed and direction when approaching other vessels.

If you are operating the stand-on vessel, acknowledge the give-way vessel’s intended actions.

You should maintain your current speed and course until the give-way boat passes or end up in a deadly collision.

Which Is the Stand-on Vessel: Motorboat or PWC?

Since PWCs fall in the powerboats category, they follow similar waterway rules. In a situation when a motorboat encounters a PWC, the following rules come into play:

Meeting Head-On

If a motorboat and a PWC are about to meet head-on, both vessels should drive to a starboard position. They should then pass each other in a regular traffic pattern (cross with the other vessel to port).

Vessels on Crossing Paths

A PWC looking to cross paths with a motorboat should focus on the course of the approach to determine the right-of-way. If a motorboat is about to meet a PWC from the starboard side, it enjoys the right-of-way.

As a PWC operator, consider taking early and significant action to give way for the motorboat. If the motorboat is approaching from the port (left) side, you enjoy the right-of-way.

You should continue steering while maintaining your speed and direction.

Overtaking Another Power-Driven Boat

Just like on a highway, overtaking another power-driven vessel on waterways is legal. You have the freedom to do so either on the starboard side or the port side.

The Collision Regulations Rule 13 states that the vessel looking to overtake another on the starboard (right) side should signal the other. That’s by sounding a single blast of the horn.

Once the starboard side is clear, the vessel to be overtaken should respond with a single horn blast. Doing so gives the green light for the overtaking boat to proceed.

If the overtaking vessel intends to steer on the port side, the operator should indicate their intentions. That’s by sounding two blasts of the horn.

After making sure the port side is clear, the vessel to be overtaken needs to respond. The operator should sound two horn blasts to signal the overtaking boat to proceed.

If the boat in front (to be overtaken) responds with five blasts of the horn, the overtaking vessel should stop. The five blasts show that it is not okay for a pass.

This rule applies to all vessels overtaking on the starboard or port sides.

What Do 5 Boat Horn Blasts Mean?

When a boat operator sounds five or more short yet rapid blasts of the horn, it signals danger. It means they don’t understand or disagree with the other boater’s intentions.

The horn helps warn the other boater not to overtake.

How To Stay Safe on Waterways

The best way to stay safe on the waterways is to abide by the set rules and portray the best practices of seamanship. Here are some of the best ways to stay safe when operating a motorboat or PWC on waterways:

Maintain a Proper Lookout

A good boat operator should maintain a proper lookout throughout the waterways by sight and hearing. You should keep a close eye on the surroundings to detect possible collision risks with other vessels or obstacles.

Assign the duty of looking out to a fellow operator or passenger to help you stay alert of:

  • Oncoming traffic
  • Swimmers
  • Potential hazards

Steer at a Safe Speed

Like roads, some waterways have demarcated speed limits for boat operators to follow. In regions without such limits, boat operators should drive at safe speeds.

These speeds allow you to take proper and effective action to avoid collisions. You can spot unforeseen obstructions and hazards early enough and stop at a safe distance.

Determine the Position and Course of Direction

If you end up in boat traffic, observe the position and direction of each vessel in relation to others on the water. This allows you to determine the vessel to get the right-of-way and avoid a collision.

It is advisable to use the navigation sectors concept to get it right. These sectors include:

  • Port sectors
  • Stern sectors
  • Starboard sectors

Other tips for avoiding collision with other vessels or obstacles on waterways include:

  • Follow navigation rules
  • Pay close attention to navigation aids
  • Inspect your surroundings before making a turn
  • Maintain a safe speed in congested boat traffic and when sailing at night
  • Take caution when sailing directly into the sun’s glare
  • Don’t operate your power-driven boat when tired, stressed, or drunk
  • Be aware of floating debris, especially after heavy rainfall

How Much Distance Should a PWC Maintain from a Motorboat?

The distance between a personal watercraft and a motorboat or other vessels on the water should be at least 50 to 200 feet.

A PWC should maintain the same distance from shorelines, people or other stationary platforms in the water to avoid a collision.

What To Do If a Sailboat is About to Cross Paths With a PWC?

If your sailboat is under sail and about to encounter a PWC, the PWC should give way. The PWC is the give-way boat, while the sailboat is the stand-on vessel.

The PWC operator should change course and speed to avoid sailboat collisions.

How Will You Know the Give-Way Vessel if a Motorboat and a PWC Are on Crossing Paths?

The answer depends on two factors which include:

1. How the Vessels Get Propelled

  • Two power-driven vessels
  • Two sailing vessels
  • A sailing vessel and power-driven vessel

2. How the Vessels Are Approaching Each Other

  • Crossing paths: It involves a risk of collision
  • Meeting head-on: The boat operator can spot another vessel ahead
  • Overtaking: The vessel trying to overtake from another vessel’s stern (behind side)

Final Thoughts: 

When a motorboat and a PWC are about to cross paths, the boat on the port (left) side should be a give-way vessel. The vessel operator should stop, change course, or speed up to avoid collisions.

The vessel crossing from the right (starboard) side is the stand-on and should maintain speed and direction.

If circumstances allow, the give-way vessel should move around or behind the stand-on vessel’s stern.

Following waterway rules and regulations is advisable to guarantee the utmost safety while operating your vessel.

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