Harwich, MA asked in Admiralty / Maritime for Massachusetts

Q: When does a sail boat have right of way?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Jonathan Craig Reed
Jonathan Craig Reed
  • Maritime Law Lawyer
  • Las Vegas, NV

A: Generally a sailboat under sail has the right of way over a power vessel. BUT practical consideration comes into play. If the power vessel is a large ship operating in a narrow channel and is restricted in its movement by its underwater depth and the sailboat is not, the sailboat loses the right of way. If the power vessel cannot reasonably be expected to see or manuever around the sailboat, the sailboat loses the right of way. Big ships take huge distances to turn. Visibility from the bridge of a big ship doesn't exist in the area right around the ship. So caution must be used in a sailboat.

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