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Author Topic:   Boating etiquette: steer to the right?
Marsh posted 06-23-2004 04:01 PM ET (US)   Profile for Marsh   Send Email to Marsh  
I have a natural tendency to keep to the starboard/right when yielding right of way to other boats on the water, just like when driving a car.

Is this correct? And if so, why is it that most boats have the pilot controls installed on the starboard, instead of on the port/left as with autos (at least here in the US)?

You guys on the Wave are pretty bright, and this is something I have always been curious about.


Captain Billy posted 06-23-2004 04:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for Captain Billy  Send Email to Captain Billy     
You are correct in staying to the starboard. The standard traffic pattern for the US is to the right, unless noted, according to the Nav Rules.

whaler3 posted 06-23-2004 11:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for whaler3  Send Email to whaler3     
The reason the helm is on the right side (starboard) of you boat is you are to yeld to the craft on your right. This makes it easier for you to see and yeld.
daveweight posted 06-24-2004 03:06 AM ET (US)     Profile for daveweight  Send Email to daveweight     
A little ditty that I learned whilst under training was Red to Red go ahead, Green to Green should never be seen this refers to Navigation lights and is International.
erik selis posted 06-24-2004 08:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for erik selis  Send Email to erik selis     

I think your natural tendency to keep to the starboard side when yielding right of way is also the correct thing to do.

I don't know about the USA, Canada or the UK, but here in Europe you need a boating license to drive a boat that travels faster than 12.5 mph. To get this license you need to follow boating school for almost 6 months and then take an examination. This examination is anything but easy and is much more difficult than the test you take to drive a car. During these classes you see the rules for yielding the right of way. Recreational motor boats almost always have to give the right of way no matter what the conditions are (this is also the safest thing to do...too many huge commercial vessels and sailboats on our waters anyway). If 2 'equal' vessels ( i.e. recreational motorboats)are heading towards each other, then whoever is coming from the starboard side has the right of way. It is then also advisable to show this to the captain of this vessel by steering to starboard (pointing your bow to the stern of the other vessel). If the other vessel is coming from your port side, then you have the right of way.

I'm not sure if the reason for most boats having their controls on the starboard side has anything to do with making it easier to see and yield as Whaler3 states. Could it also have something to do with the direction of propeller rotation and the forces created? Maybe placing the weight on the starboard side (helmsman) would compensate these forces? I don't know for sure though.

Green and red lights(starboard and port)are international but that's about it. There are international signs and lights and general rules for international waters but they differ immensely from the national rules and agreements for inland waterways. If you compare the lighting rules in the USA to those in Europe you will see the difference. The UK is a mixture of both.
To give an example of how complex it is in Europe: When travelling in the English Channel towards the Belgian harbour in Antwerp you are first in International waters using International rules and guidelines. Once in the Delta of the river "Schelde", other rules are valid. Rules only applicable to the river "Schede". About 30 miles upstream the rules change again to those of the inland waters. These three sets of rules and guidelines are significantly different from each other. (signs, many light signals as well as audible signals, right of way, passing, anchoring...) A Captain of a large vessel must really know what he's doing.


Plotman posted 06-24-2004 09:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for Plotman  Send Email to Plotman     
Conrols that are off center are on the right to counteract the natural tendancy of a boat with a RH prop to make the boat lean to the left. Thus, if you are going to have unbalanced weight in a boat, you put it on the right.
Knot at Work posted 06-24-2004 12:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for Knot at Work  Send Email to Knot at Work     
Erik, Geez your Captains need a freaking Guide book the size of the Manhatten Phone Book, or the Size of the Off shore company's owned by Kerry's wife!

Hey Eric, I flew with a crew of your 320 Squadron (P-3 Aircraft) when I was stationed in Sicily. They got me hooked on Potatoes served with Mayo! AWESOME!

As for the Schelde... That Estuary was a reason why the Atlantic Wall held out for Hitler all those years. Formidible indeed. Amazing how the Dutch have reclaimed so much land!


Swellmonster posted 06-24-2004 10:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for Swellmonster  Send Email to Swellmonster     
Ditto plotman...
erik selis posted 06-25-2004 08:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for erik selis  Send Email to erik selis     
David (Plotman), I knew I heard it said, the way you described it, before. I just wasn't sure. Thanks for confirming that.

Jeff, indeed: you need a king sized briefcase when you go boating in some places here just to keep the regulations and guidelines in. It's also mandatory to have them with you when boating on the corresponding waters.
If you like potatoes with mayo you should try this: Fries with mayo, ketchup and then sprinkled with small chopped onions. DO NOT MIX! The layers must remain homogeneous. It's called a 'Friet Sp├ęcial'. It's also popular in Holland.


DillonBW posted 06-25-2004 08:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for DillonBW  Send Email to DillonBW     
Big fat french fries with mayo......Yum!
The Dutch do these wonderfully well, set me thinking I need to fix a trip to Europe now, Thanks Erik.
Knot at Work posted 06-25-2004 09:09 AM ET (US)     Profile for Knot at Work  Send Email to Knot at Work     
Erik, by Potatoes, I meant Fries. small shoe string ones


BUT... tuborg and Amstel need some work. Sorry I prefer Harps.


erik selis posted 06-25-2004 09:29 AM ET (US)     Profile for erik selis  Send Email to erik selis     
Yes Jeff, I agree with you 100%.

Tuborg and Amstel definitely need some work. So does Heineken and Stella Artois. I sorry I'm not familiar with Harps though. You can get Bud here... but to stay on topic: I would surely yield to starboard for a 'Friet Special' and a...Labbatt's Blue....:-)


Knot at Work posted 06-25-2004 11:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for Knot at Work  Send Email to Knot at Work     

Harps, is an Ireland Guiness label pretty good.

thanks for the return to post. (I bet steering to the right really pisses off the liberal left! Must be a right wing conspiracy)

devildog posted 06-25-2004 08:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for devildog  Send Email to devildog     
At the risk of sounding like a mother hen: It's really a good idea to take a boating safety course or at the least get a Chapman's guide. Both invaluable sources of good information on rules of the road and more.

Jeff Myers

Moe posted 06-26-2004 10:50 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
In right hand drive countries, we're used to the shifter on the right. On small boats, motor controls are mounted on the starboard gunwale, and on larger ones, they're still mounted starboard of the wheel. This puts a center console wheel, and hence the pilot, on the port side of the console and boat.

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