Test Your Knowledge
Finally this past summer my editor decided to take the captains class in Alameda and get her USCG master 100 ton license. Having completed the necessary sea time and other requirements, the last hurdle was to take the knowledge exams. Of the four exams the Navigation Rules is the more difficult with 50 questions and a required 90% to pass. As anyone that has looked at the United States Coast Guard Navigation Rules & Navigation Handbook, which is required to be on board any vessel over 12 meters, knows there are only 38 rules and 5 annexes. Of course there are two sets of rules, inland and international, each with a half dozen subparts. And yes, you do need to know all them as the test covers all of them.
While Leslie was preparing for the class, we had many opportunities to review the inland navigation rules in real time as we operated vessels all around the Bay and Delta. What was more difficult for me was remembering the rules that we do not use very often and these are usually some of the lights, shapes, and sound signals. During her class, we tested each other on the rules and given I had several that I struggled to remember, I thought perhaps others might have the same issue so I chose some of the less used and easy to forget rules and put together a short 10 question quiz. That more challenging quiz will be run in a future Lesson’s Learned edition. The quiz I pulled together below is the easier of Inland Rules and those of which every mariner should be familiar. Enjoy!
1. Sidelights are what color?
a. Green on port - red on starboard.
b. Red on port - green on starboard.
c. Both are white.
d. Both are yellow.
2. You are approaching another vessel from dead astern and desire to overtake along the other vessels starboard side, what whistle signal would you sound?
a. One short blast.
b. Two short blasts.
c. Three short blasts.
d. One prolonged blast.
3. A vessel shall be deemed to be overtaking when she is in such a position with reference to the vessel she is approaching that she can see at night?
a. Only the stern light of the vessel.
b. Both sidelights of the vessel.
c. Only one sidelight of the vessel.
d. Any lights except the masthead lights of the vessel.
4. While operating your power driven vessel in fog, your RADAR indicates a vessel three-quarters mile distant and on your port bow. You should
a. Sound the danger signal.
b. Exchange maneuvering signals.
c. Sound one long blast.
d. Not alter course to port.
5. A fleet of moored barges extends into a navigable channel. What is the color of the lights on the barges?
a. Red & Green.
d. No lights are required.
6. What lights are required for a barge being pushed ahead?
a. Red & Green sidelight and a white stern light.
b. Red & Green sidelights, white stern light, and a special flashing yellow light.
c. Red & Green sidelights and a special flashing yellow light.
d. Red & Green sidelights, a yellow towing light, and a white stern light.
7. Which statement is correct concerning risk of collision?
a. The stand on vessel must keep out of the way of the other vessel when risk of collision exists.
b. Risk of collision always exists when two vessels pass within one mile of each other.
c. Risk of collision always exists when the compass bearing of an approaching vessel changes fast.
d. Risk of collision exists when the compass bearing of an approaching vessel does not appreciably change.
8. While underway in the fog you hear a vessel sound one prolonged blast followed by two short blasts on the whistle. This signal is sounded by?
a. A vessel engaged in sailing.
b. A tug with a tow, underway, making way.
c. A vessel with divers down.
d. All of the above.
9. When is a stand on vessel first allowed by the rules to take action in order to avoid collision?
a. When it becomes apparent that the give way vessel is not taking appropriate action to avoid collision.
b. When the two vessels are less than a half-mile from each other.
c. When collision is imminent.
d. The stand on vessel is not allowed to take action at any time.
10. You are on a sailing vessel and while under sail you decide to use your engine to assist in propulsion. Which day shape would you show?
a. A black ball.
b. A cone with the apex up.
c. A diamond.
d. A cone with the apex down.
The correct answer is B; Red on port - green on starboard.
This should be an easy one. Stand at your helm and the red light is on your left if facing forward. Rule 21, Lights and Shapes. Definitions. Part (b) “sidelights” means a green light on the starboard side and a red light on the port side each showing an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 112.5 degrees and so fixed as to show the light from right ahead to 22.5 degrees abaft the beam on its respective side. In a vessel of less than 20 meters (65 feet) in length the sidelights may be combined in one lantern carried on the fore and aft centerline of the vessel.
The arc of the sidelight when added together equal that of the white masthead or steaming light which shines over an arc of 225 degrees showing 22.5 degrees abaft the beam on either side.
The correct answer is A. One short blast.
The easiest way to remember these maneuvering signals is one short I am altering my course to the right, two short I am altering my course to the left, three short I am operating my engines astern. Rule 34, Sound and Light Signals, Maneuvering and Warning Signals Part (c) when in sight of one another:
i. A power driven vessel intending to overtake another power driven vessel shall indicate her intention by the following signals on her whistle: One short blast to mean “I intend to overtake you on your starboard side;” two short blasts to mean “I intend to overtake you on your port side;” and,
ii. The power driven vessel about to be overtaken shall, if in agreement, sound a similar sound signal. If in doubt she shall sound the danger signal prescribed in section (d).
This is one area where the Inland and International rules vary. In the inland rules the other vessel upon hearing the one or two blast signal of the other vessel shall, if in agreement, sound the same whistle signal and take the steps necessary to affect a safe passing. If, however, the vessel doubts the safety or fails to understand the intentions or actions, she shall sound the danger signal of at least five short and rapid blasts of the whistle. In the International Rules these maneuvering signals are a statement, not a request, and are not answered; for example in international waters one short blast indicates that “I am altering my course to starboard.”
The correct answer is A. Only the stern light of the vessel.
Rule 13, Steering and Sailing Rules, Overtaking Part (b) A vessel shall be deemed to be overtaking 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. The stern light shines over an arc of 135 degrees and is pointed dead astern.
There are several instances that we might only see a single white light and cannot be certain if it a vessel at anchor with the all around white anchor light, a barge anchored in a navigable waterway, a partly submerged object being towed, a sailing vessel less than 7 meters (21 feet) or a vessel under oars displaying a handheld torch, or if we are overtaking another vessel. In all of these cases we are the give way vessel and must alter our course and speed to avoid collision.
The answer is D. Not alter course to port.
This one takes a bit of thought and many yachtsmen get it wrong. Rule 19, Steering and Sailing Rules, Conduct of Vessels in Restricted Visibility Part (d) A vessel which detects by RADAR alone the presence of another vessel shall determine if a close quarters situation is developing or risk of collision exists, if so, she shall take avoiding action in ample time, provided that when such action consists of an alteration of course, so far as possible the following shall be avoided:
i. An alteration of course to port for a vessel forward of the beam other than for a vessel being overtaken; and
ii. An alteration of course towards a vessel abeam or abaft the beam.
We avoid altering our course to port whether the other vessel is the privileged (on our starboard side) or give way (on our port side) vessel. If we have the other vessel on our port, we have the privilege and would expect the other vessel to alter course to their right to pass astern of us. If we alter course to port, then we are in danger of a head on situation. If we have the other vessel on our starboard side we are the give way vessel and would alter our course to starboard to pass astern the other vessel. If the other vessel is dead ahead then we refer to rule 14 (a); when two power driven vessels are meeting on a reciprocal or nearly reciprocal course so as to involve risk of collision, each shall alter her course to starboard so that each shall pass on the port side of the other. In meeting situations with the international rules there is no choice and we must alter course to the right and pass port-to-port, however, in the inland rules the vessels do have a choice if agreed to by sound signals or by radio.
The correct answer is C. White.
Rule 30, Lights and Shapes, Vessels anchored, aground, and moored barges (j) A barge or group of barges at anchor or made fast to one or more mooring buoys or other similar device, in lieu of the provisions of this Rule, may carry unobstructed all-round white lights of an intensity to be visible for at least 1 nautical mile that meet the requirements of Annex I (33CFR part 84) and shall be arranged as follows:
i. Any barge that projects from a group formation shall be lighted on its outboard corners.
ii. On a single barge moored in water where other vessels normally navigate on both sides of the barge, lights shall be placed to mark the corner extremities of the barge.
iii. On barges moored in group formation, moored in water where other vessels normally navigate on both sides of the group, lights shall be placed to mark the corner extremities of the group.
The correct answer is C. Red & Green sidelights and a special flashing yellow light.
Shapes, Towing and Pushing Part (f) Provided that any number of vessels being towed alongside or pushed in a group shall be lighted as one vessel, except as provided in paragraph (iii);
i. A vessel being pushed ahead, not being part of a composite unit, shall exhibit at the forward end sidelights, and a special flashing light
ii. A vessel being towed alongside shall exhibit a stern light and a the forward end sidelights and a special flashing light and
iii. When vessels are towed alongside on both sides of the towing vessel a stern light shall be exhibited on the stern of the outboard vessel on each side of the towing vessel, and a single set of sidelights as far forward and as far outboard as is practicable, and a single special flashing light.
The “special flashing light” is a yellow light displayed on the front of a barge and has a frequency of 50 -70 flashes per minute and a range of 2 miles. This is an inland rule requirement only and not international.
The correct answer is D. Risk of collision exists when the compass bearing of an approaching vessel does not appreciably change.
Rule 7, Risk of Collision. Part (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 appreciable change and
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.
We refer to this as CBDR, Constant Bearing Decreasing Range. To determine if we have a CBDR situation it is easy to line the other vessel to some a fixed vertical object on your boat. If the bearing remains constant then risk of collision exists. With a vessel on your port side if the bearing drifts to the left then you will pass ahead of that vessel, and if the bearing drifts to the right you will pass astern.
The correct answer is D. All of the above.
A power driven vessel underway and making way is the only vessel whose fog whistle is one prolonged blast every 2 minutes. Rule 35, Sound and Light Signals, Sound Signals in Restricted Visibility (c) A vessel not under command; a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver, whether underway or at anchor, a sailing vessel; a vessel engaged in fishing, whether underway or at anchor; 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.
A dive vessel with divers in the water is considered encumbered and part (c) applies.
The correct answer is A. When it becomes apparent that the give way vessel is not taking appropriate action to avoid collision.
The common error is to choose answer C, when collision is imminent. By then it is too late and you are dealing with crumpled fiberglass. Rule 17, Steering and Sailing Rules, Action by Stand-on Vessel, Part (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.
There is no Right of Way! Under maritime law it is unusual for the courts to find only one vessel totally at fault. The courts have held that both vessels are responsible to take action to avoid collision and if a collision has occurred the courts support the theory that neither vessel acted in accordance with the rules. When it becomes apparent that the other vessel is not taking appropriate action the burden has now shifted to you and you must take action to avoid collision.
Looking for the term Right of Way in the rules? Only one place, Inland Rule 9, narrow channels, (a)(ii).
The correct answer is D. A cone with the apex down.
Rule 25, Lights and Shapes, Sailing Vessels underway and Vessels Under Oars. (e) A vessel proceeding under sail when also being propelled by machinery shall exhibit forward where it can best be seen a conical shape, apex downward, A vessel less than 12 meters (39 feet) in length is not required to exhibit this shape, but may do so.
Have you ever seen this day shape? Almost never. But this day shape rule exists so that other vessels know the sailing vessel is now considered a power driven vessel for purposes of the rules.
1. An authorized light to assist in the identification of a submarine operating on the surface is a:
a. Blue rotating light.
b. Intermittent flashing yellow light.
c. Flashing white light.
d. Flashing sidelight.
The correct answer is B. Intermittent flashing yellow light.
Rule 1, General, Application Part (c), note 1 Nothing in these rules shall interfere with the operation of any special rules made by the Secretary of the Navy with respect to additional station or signal lights and shapes or whistle signals for ships of war and vessels proceeding under convoy...
Note 1, Submarines may display, as a distinctive means of identification, an intermittent flashing amber (yellow) beacon with a sequence of operation of one flash per second for three (3) seconds followed by a three (3) second off period.
Think that you will never encounter one of these? I have seen submarines on the surface in both San Diego and in the Pacific Northwest. Not common but still good to know the identity of the vessel if you ever do come across one.
Ok, so much for the easy ones that we use just about every day. Next time we will look at the less frequently used rules that are easy to forget. Brush up on them for the next few months. Until next month please keep those letters coming. Do you have a good story to tell, I love a good story and with permission I would love to run it in the Bay & Delta Yachtsman. Have good photos of right and wrong, please send them and I will include them in next edition of “is it right or is it wrong” email@example.com H