While departing Northport Bay, we found ourselves in a crossing situation with a sailboat. We were heading East and the sailboat was heading North. There was no indication the sailboat was under power. He had his sails up and drawing, and he was on a Port tack; the wind from from the Northwest. In this situation, RULE 18 applies. It says:
Rule 18 - Responsibilities Between Vessels
Except where Rules 9, 10, and 13 otherwise require:
(a) A power-driven vessel underway shall keep out of the way of:
(i) a vessel not under command;
(ii) a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver;
(iii) a vessel engaged in fishing;
(iv) a sailing vessel.
Clearly it was our obligation to stay out of the way of the sailing vessel. We immediately altered course by turning to Starboard, heading to the South, until we could cross astern of the sailboat. Then we altered course to Port, and resumed our Easterly heading. The sailboat then decided that they would come-about, and they tacked over, making their course approximately due West. We altered course again, to increase the distance between us as we were now on reciprocal courses and would pass head-to-head. We bore off again to Starboard, the sailboat passed us, and then we resumed our original course.
After we rounded Northport Point RED 2 Flashing Red 4-seconds Bell buoy, we turned to a course of about 045-True to the Northeast and maintained a speed of around 28-MPH. Once a mile or so from shore, we seemed to be the only boat on the water. However, we did encounter another boater a few minutes later, heading to the Southeast on a course of about 135-True, at right angles to our courseline. It was soon apparent from the constant angle on the bow of the approaching boat that we were in a crossing situation that was going to be very close. The applicable rule of navigation for this situation is RULE 15, which states:
Rule 15 - Crossing Situation
(a) When two power-driven vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision, the vessel which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way and shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel.
In the situation we found ourselves in, the approaching vessel was on our Port side, so that vessel was obligated under Rule 15 to keep out of our way and to not cross ahead of us. I began to watch the other vessel closely to see if he would make any alteration in his course to avoid a collision with our boat. I could detect no change in course or speed of the other vessel. As we got closer it became apparent--as crazy as this might seem in such large open water--that we could collide with the other vessel if neither of us altered course.
In this crossing situation I was the "stand-on vessel," but I also had other obligations as explained in RULE 17:
Rule 17- Action by Stand-on Vessel
(a) (i) Where one of two vessels is to keep out of the way, the other shall keep her course and speed.
(ii) The latter vessel may, however, take action to avoid collision by her maneuver alone, as soon as it becomes apparent to her that the vessel required to keep out of the way is not taking appropriate action in compliance with these Rules.
(b) When, from any cause, the vessel required to keep her course and speed finds herself so close that collision cannot be avoided by the action of the give-way vessel alone, she shall take such action as will best aid to avoid collision.
(c) A power-driven vessel which takes action in a crossing situation in accordance with Rule 17(a)(ii) to avoid collision with another power-driven vessel shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, not alter course to port for a vessel on her own port side.
(d) This Rule does not relieve the give-way vessel of her obligation to keep out of the way.
My first obligation in this crossing situation was to maintain my course and speed. I had been doing exactly that, but as the distance between my boat and the other boat decreased, it was clear that the other boat was taking no action to avoid collision. In that situation, I had to take some action to avoid collision--I really had to do this even thought the rule says only that I "may take action." The other boat was a 40-footer, and I had no desire to collide with him.
Now that I was going to take action to avoid collision as the stand-on vessel, my options were limited. As RULE 17 (c) requires, I should not alter my course to Port. I should only alter course to Starboard.
Altering course to Starboard would have meant turning onto a course that would parallel the oncoming vessel's course and heading. It looked like our speeds were about the same. We would have then been running closely alongside each other, which would not have solved the crossing problem. Instead, I simply pulled back the throttle and came to a rapid stop in the middle of Grand Traverse Bay.
The other vessel made no change in course and speed, and the helmsman appeared to not even glance in our direction. A few seconds later the 40-footer crossed about 100-feet in front of us, throwing off a rather large wake. We bounced through the three-foot high wake, and then resumed our travel. I guess the helmsman of the 40-footer was either:
--completely unaware of our boat and the risk of collision between our boats;
--was aware of the risk of collision but completely unaware of his obligations under RULE 17 to alter course to avoid collision, or,
--he was aware of both the risk of collision and his obligation under RULE 17 and decided to play chicken and see if I would get out of his way first before we collided because he had a bigger boat.
Any thoughts on which of those three situations might be most likely?
In any case, it is a bit disheartening to encounter such poor seamanship and apparent total obliviousness of the navigation rules from another boater.