One of the main objectives of safe boating is to avoid accidents, especially collisions with another moving vessel. Of the three possible situations that are described in detail in the Rules: “Overtaking” is a special type of safe passage maneuver that is often the most dangerous and sometimes the most unobservable situations a boat or PWC operator will experience.

The lack of horizontal or lateral movement between vessels is the main reason. It is much more difficult to assess bearing drift, the primary element critical for collision avoidance, from a narrow angle than to observe from a side view vantage point.

Boating Safety - overtaking graphicThe diagram displayed shows the danger zone labeled “Overtaking Sector” which is the area where the hazard resides. The break between 22.5 degrees behind the beam on both sides highlights the demarcation.  Further in the Rules it states that you are still not relieved of responsibility as the operator in charge of the overtaking vessel until you are “finally past and clear” of the vessel you are overtaking. That means moving away from and not just crossing into the 22.5-degree zone on either side of the vessel.

The USCG Navigation Rules of the Road is sometimes difficult to properly comprehend and apply.

If you should need a refresher in the required discipline please contact me to discover how. (, The USCG Commandant Instruction on Navigation Rules consists of 38 International and 11 Inland Differences, all of which support one main, exact requirement – to avoid collision with another vessel in sight of each other.

The correct application and interpretation of these requirements yield great results. Thinking ahead and visualizing possible outcomes is paramount to your overall success in safe navigation.

If you find yourself in the Overtaking Sector while you are passing another boat please consider these three basic actions:

• Make the approach to pass outside the wake pattern of the vessel being overtaken
• Slow down or stop to reduce the relative speed between both vessels if you are unsure of how the situation is developing
• Be prepared to safely turn away at any time during the evolution.

It’s a simple fix to a big challenge and if performed correctly is a tremendous asset. The chief problem is that this position can also be extremely difficult to recognize in a reasonable amount of time to properly react. The best course of action is to avoid it altogether if possible.