Navigational Rules of the Road
The following are the extracted portions of the Navigational Rules of the Road - For International and Inland Waters - used by the United States Coast Guard and applicable to all vessels. The portions extracted here pertain to kayaks and kayaking. These are provided as a convenient reference to the rules and to familiarize you with them. The rules cover a broad range of kayaking conditions from calm water to open ocean.
NAVIGATIONAL RULES OF THE ROAD
For International and Inland Waters
Extracted portions that apply to Kayaks
Part A – General
Rule 1 Application
Rule 2 Responsibility
(a) Nothing in these Rules shall exonerate any vessel, or the
owner, master or crew thereof, from the consequences of any neglect to comply with these Rules or of the neglect of any precaution which may be required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case.Part B - Steering and Sailing Rules
(b) In construing and complying with these Rules due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from these Rules necessary to avoid immediate danger.
(In broad terms – you must be aware and have proper skill and information, at minimum, a compass, tide table and current weather forecast when applicable).
Section I – Conduct of Vessels in Any condition of Visibility
Rule 5 Look-out
All vessels are
required to maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available other means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.Rule 7 Risk of Collision
(All vessels must maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing to make a full appraisal of the risk of collision).
(a) Every vessel shall use all available means appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions to determine if risk of collision exists. If there is any doubt such risk shall be deemed to exist.Rule 8 Action to Avoid Collision
(d) In determining if risk of collision exists the following considerations shall be among those taken into account;
(i) such risk shall be deemed to exist if the compass bearing of an approaching vessel does not appreciably change.(Defines “risk” as noticing that an oncoming vessel does not (by eye) appreciably change course. Further, even if a change of course is evident, the size of a vessel or a tow situation may determine risk of circumstance – when in doubt act as though risk exists).
(ii) such risk may sometimes exist even when an appreciable bearing change is evident, particularly when approaching a very large vessel or a tow or when approaching a vessel at close range.
(a) Taking action must be in ample time and with regard to good seamanship.Rule 9 Narrow Channels
(c) Any alteration of course and/or speed to avoid collision shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, be large enough to be readily apparent to another vessel observing visually or by radar; a succession of small alterations of course and/or speed should be avoided.
(d) Action taken to avoid collision with another vessel shall be such to result in passing at a safe distance. The effectiveness of the action shall be carefully checked until the other vessel is finally past and clear.
(Your response to avoid a collision must be of quick action - and your course alteration has to be large enough to be visually noticed – do not use small successive alterations – provide a safe distance for other
vessel to pass and be vigilant until pass is clear).
(a) A vessel proceeding along the course of a narrow channel or fairway shall keep as near to the outer limit of the channel or fairway which lies on her starboard side as is safe and practicable.Rule 10 Traffic Separation Schemes
(b) A vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only with a narrow channel or fairway.
(c) A vessel engaged in fishing shall not impede the passage of any other vessel navigating within a narrow channel or fairway.
(d) A vessel shall not cross a narrow channel or fairway if such crossing impedes the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within such channel or fairway. The latter vessel may use the sound signal prescribed in Rule 34(c)(ii) if in doubt as to the intention of the crossing vessel.
(Because kayaks are small and able to travel in very shallow water they are required to keep far right or outside of a narrow channel – kayaks (and those fishing) shall not impede the passing of vessels constrained by draft or other way – do not prevent passage of a vessel restricted to the channel by its size, by crossing a narrow passage – if you are paddling in a narrow channel and are visually impaired due to a bend or obstruction, your are required to sound one prolonged blast and the oncoming vessel is required to do the same).
(a) This rule applies to traffic separation schemes adopted by the Organization and does not relieve any vessel of her obligation under any other rule.
(b) A vessel shall, so far as practicable, avoid crossing traffic lanes but if obligated to do so shall cross on a heading as nearly as practicable at right angles to the general direction of traffic flow.
(Kayaks cannot travel along or between designated traffic separation lanes as indicated on charts unless accessing a port or to avoid danger. If required to do so they should cross at right angles to the traffic flow and as quick as possible).
Part B –
Section II Conduct of Vessels in Sight of One Another
Rule 13 – Overtaking
(a) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Rules of Part B, Section I and II any vessel overtaking any other shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken.Rule 14 – Head-on Situation
(b) A vessel shall be deemed to be overtaking when coming up with another vessel from a direction more than 22.5 degrees abaft her beam, that is, in such a position with reference to the vessel she is overtaking, that at night she would be able to see only the stern light of that vessel but neither of her sidelights.
(c) When a vessel is in any doubt as to whether she is overtaking another, she shall assume that this is the case and act accordingly.
(d) Any subsequent alteration of the bearing between the two vessels shall not make the overtaking vessel a crossing vessel with the meaning of these Rules or relieve her of the duty of keeping clear of the overtaken vessel until she is finally past and clear.
(If your kayak is overtaken from behind you should (if possible) maintain course and speed. The overtaking vessel is required to keep out of your way. You are still required by Rule 9 not to impede passage of a restricted vessel and use sound signals if applicable). Sound signals:
One short blast =“I am altering my course to the right and intend to pass you on my left side”.
Two short blasts =“I am altering my course to the left and intend to leave you on my right side”.
(b) Such a situation shall be deemed to exist when a vessel sees the other ahead or nearly ahead and by night she could see the masthead lights of the other in a line or nearly in a line and/or both side lights and by day she observes the corresponding aspect of the other vessel.
(c) When a vessel is in any doubt as to whether such a situation exists she shall assume that it does exist and act accordingly.
(In a head-on situation each vessel shall alter their course to the right to avoid collision and indicate this using the whistle signals described in Rule 13 above).
Rule 19 – Conduct of Vessels in Restricted Visibility
(a) This Rule applies to vessels not in sight of one another when navigating in or near an area of restricted visibility.Part C – Lights and Shapes
(e) Except where it has been determined that a risk of collision does not exist, every vessel which hears apparently forward of her beam the fog signal of another vessel, or which cannot avoid a close-quarters situation with another vessel forward of her beam, shall reduce her speed to the minimum at which she can be kept on her course. She shall if necessary take all her way off and in any event navigate with extreme caution until danger of collision is over.
(When visibility is restricted, kayaks should sound a fog signal of one prolonged blast on their whistle at least every two minutes. If a fog signal from another vessel is heard and there may be a risk of collision, stop paddling, stop progress, immediately return the signal of one prolonged blast on your whistle and proceed with extreme caution until danger is over).
(a) Rules in the Part shall be complied with in all weathers.Part D – Sound and Light Signals
(b) The Rules concerning lights shall be complied with from sunset to sunrise, and during such times no other lights shall be exhibited, except such lights as cannot be mistaken for the lights specified in these Rules or do not impair their visibility or distinctive character, or interfere with the keeping of the proper look-out.
(c) The lights prescribed by these Rules shall, if carried, also be exhibited from sunrise to sunset in restricted visibility and may be exhibited in all other circumstances when it is deemed necessary.
(Lights are required from sunset to sunrise and when visibility is restricted – Kayaks are required to carry a white light on their bow or at least a white flashlight to be shown toward an approaching vessel in ample time to avoid collision. Have your light at hand or mounted to the bow, not stowed below. Only use a steady white light - never use a strobe light or other light that may confuse an oncoming vessel).
Rule 32 - Definitions
(a) The word “whistle” means any sound signaling appliance capable of producing the prescribed blasts and which complies with the specifications in Annex III to these Regulations.
(b) The term “short blast” means a blast of about one seconds' duration.
(c) The term “prolonged blast” means a blast of from four to six seconds’ duration.
Rule 33 Equipment for Sound signals
(b) A vessel of less than 12 meters in length shall not be obliged to carry the should signaling appliances prescribed in paragraph (a)of this Rule but if she does
not, she shall be provided with some other means of making an efficient sound signal.
(A kayak must carry a whistle or sound device with an audible capability of being heard a distance of ½ mile under calm conditions).
= lasting about one second
A “prolonged blast” = lasting about 4-6 seconds
A “danger signal” = at least five short and rapid blasts
Rule 34 – Maneuvering and Warning Signals
(a) When vessels are in sight of one another, a power-driven vessel underway, when maneuvering as authorized or required by these Rules, shall indicate that maneuver by the following signals on her whistle.
- one short blast to mean “I am altering my course to starboard”;
- two short blasts to mean “I am altering my course to port”;
- three short blasts to mean “I am operating astern
(b) Any vessel may supplement the whistle signals prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule by light signals, repeated as appropriate, whilst the maneuver is being carried out:
(i) these light signals shall have the following significance:(c) When in sight of one another in a narrow channel or fairway:
- one flash to mean “I am altering my course to starboard”;
- two flashes to mean “I am altering my course to port”;
- three flashes to mean “I am operating astern propulsion”;
(ii) the duration of each flash shall be about one second, the interval between flashes shall be about one second, and the interval between successive signals shall be not less than 10 seconds;
(iii) the light used for this signal shall, if fitted, be an all-round white light visible at a minimum range of 5 miles, and shall comply with the provisions of Annex I to these Regulations.
(i) a vessel intending to overtake another shall in compliance with Rule (9)(e)(i) indicate her intention by the following signals on her whistle;
- two prolonged blasts followed by one short blast to mean “I intend to overtake you on your starboard side”;
- two prolonged blasts followed by two short blasts to mean “I intend to overtake you on your port side”;
(ii) The vessel about to be overtaken when acting in accordance with Rule 9
(e)(i) shall indicate her agreement by the following signal on her whistle:
- One prolonged, one short, one prolonged and one short blast, in that order.
(e) A vessel nearing a bend or an area of a channel or fairway where other vessels may be obscured by an intervening obstruction shall sound one prolonged blast. Such signal shall be answered with a prolonged blast by any approaching vessel that may be within hearing around the bend or behind the intervening obstruction.
(Vessels in sight of one another shall indicate maneuvers by signaling as follows:
- one short blast signals “I am altering my course to the right and leave you on my left side”
- two short blasts signal “I am altering my course to the left and leave you on my right side;
If the other vessel agrees – they should respond with the same signal and alter course accordingly.
If the proposed maneuver is unsafe – the other vessel should sound the danger signal five short and rapid blasts on the whistle – and each vessel take appropriate action until safely passed. In a narrow channel with a bend or other obstruction, sound one prolonged blast – the approaching vessel should do the same).
Rule 35 – Sound Signals in Restricted Visibility
In or near an area of restricted visibility, whether by day or night, the signals prescribed in this Rule shall be used as follows:Rule 36 – Signals to Attract Attention
(a) A power-driven vessel making way through the water shall sound at intervals of not more than 2 minutes one prolonged blast.
(b) A power-driven vessel underway but stopped and making no way through the water shall sound at intervals of not more than 2 minutes two prolonged blasts in succession with an interval of about 2 seconds between them.
(c) A vessel not under command, a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver, a vessel constrained by her draft, a sailing vessel, a vessel engaged in fishing and a vessel engaged in towing or pushing another vessel shall, instead of the signals prescribed in paragraphs (a) or (b) of this Rule, sound at intervals of not more than 2 minutes three blasts in succession, namely one prolonged followed by two short blasts.
(In restricted visibility either day or night the following signals shall be sounded at least every two minutes:
- Power-driven vessels making way through the water: one prolonged blast
- Power-driven vessel not making way, stopped in the water: two prolonged blasts in succession at 2 second intervals
A vessel constrained by her draft, restricted maneuverability, a sailing vessel, a fishing vessel, towing vessel or vessel pushing another vessel:one prolonged blast – followed by two short blasts<p>
Since kayaks don’t fall under these prescriptions using one prolonged blast at least signals a vessel making way through the water).
If necessary to attract attention of another vessel, any vessel may make light or sound signals that cannot be mistaken for any signal authorized elsewhere in these Rules, or may direct the beam of her searchlight in the direction of the danger, in such a way as not to embarrass any vessel. Any light to attract the attention of another vessel shall be such that it cannot be mistaken for any aid to navigation. For the purpose of this Rule the use of high
intensity intermittent or revolving lights, such as strobe lights, shall be avoided.Rule 37 – Distress Signals
(If necessary – any vessel
may make light or sound signals that cannot be mistaken for any aid to navigation – or direct a searchlight in the direction of the danger, as with an oncoming vessel).
When a vessel is in distress and requires assistance she shall use or exhibit the signals described in Annex IV to these regulations.
ANNEX IV – Distress Signals
1. Need of assistance(a) a gun or other explosive signal fired at intervals of about a minute;
The following signals, used or exhibited either together or separately, indicate distress and need of assistance:
(b) a continuous sounding with any fog-signaling apparatus;
(c) rockets or shells, throwing red stars fired one at a time at short intervals;
signal made by radiotelegraphy or by any other signaling method consisting of the group . . . _ _ _ . . .(SOS) in the Morse Code;
(e) a signal sent by radiotelephony consisting of the spoken word “Mayday”,
(f) the International Code Signal of distress indicated by NC;
(g) a signal consisting of a square flag having above or below it a ball or anything resembling a ball;
(h) flames on the vessel (as from a burning tar barrel, oil barrel, etc.);
(i) a rocket parachute or a hand flare showing a red light;
(j) a smoke signal giving off orange colored smoke;
(k) slowly and repeatedly raising and lowering arms outstretched to each side;
(l) the radiotelegraph alarm signal;
(m) the radiotelephone alarm signal;
(n) signals transmitted by emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRB);
(o) approved signals transmitted by radio communication systems.
2. The use or exhibition of any of the foregoing signals except for the purpose of indicating distress and need of assistance and the use of other signals which may be confused with any of the above signals is prohibited.
(When in distress and requiring assistance, a vessel should use the signals described here – these signals are for distress only).