by Don Greene
Most of our sea time will be spent under the jurisdiction of the inland rules. Boating along in Long Island and Block Island Sounds offer the best fishing, swimming and relaxation opportunities on the east coast. Little Narragansett Bay, which includes Sandy Point up to Napatree Point, offers a safe clean anchoring area.
When traveling in these areas, you need to be cognizant of the tide levels. Be sure to pick up a current copy of the Eldridge Tide and Pilot book. This book will tell you when the tide turns northwest toward New Haven or southeast towards Block Island and Point Judith.
The purpose of these rules is to prevent collisions. Remember: there is no right of way for anyone traveling in the United States!
For example: You are making turns approximately 10 knots for a passage from the Pawcatuck River to Greenport, Long Island. You observe a vessel ahead of you traveling on the same course as you are. You sound one short blast from your horn. And await a return blast signifying that he is going to allow you to take him down your port side and safely pass him. According to the rules, he is to maintain his course and speed until you are safely past him.
All of a sudden he turns to starboard, and there is a collision. No one is hurt and very little damage to either vessel. You take the necessary information for your insurance company and the US Coast Guard report, which is due within 90 days. Before you continue your voyage, you should immediately write down what you saw and did along with damage to either vessel. Who was at fault? Both of you. He did not wait for you to pass him be for he changed course. You were a fault because you did not wait for his horn blast signifying he heard and understood your signal. If he felt it was not safe because of traffic or rocks to his starboard. He was supposed to sound five short blasts to indicate danger. You both broke the navigation rules, therefore, both are at fault.
If you are ready for a free vessel safety inspection, call Donald Greene, support officer, Mystic Flotilla USCG Auxiliary at 860.608.1075. We will come to your boat and perform the inspection on land.