Sailing Tactics; Rules of the Road

by Linda Cullum - Date: 2007-02-07 - Word Count: 623 Share This!

Rules of the Road...Who has the Right of Way?

The Right of Way rules do not technically come into effect
between boats until there is the possibility of collision.
Sailboats should never get so close to each other so that a risk
of collision exists. vessels should pass portside to portside
and as far to starboard as water depth permits.

When two sailboats meet there are three rules to follow:

1. The boat on the port tack gives way to the boat on the
starboard tack. 2. When on the same tack, the windward boat
gives way to the leeward boat. 3. The overtaking vessel keeps
clear of the slower vessel.

To learn more about the rules of the road, download a Free!
"Rules of the Road" article with graphics at our website at

Piloting- Deviation and Variation

There are two types of Poles; the Geographic North and South
Poles, also called True North and True South, and the Magnetic
North and South Poles. The Geographic poles are stationary. The
earth is a big magnet with magnetic lines of force running from
the magnetic north pole to the magnetic south pole. The magnetic
pole is located in northern Canada; somewhat west of the
Geographic Pole. It's location changes over long periods of time.

Variation is the angle between the magnetic north and the true
north. This is indicated by a compass when it is free of any
nearby magnetic influences. A magnetized pointer, or needle,
that is allowed to spin freely, will point to the magnetic north
pole. On a boat compass, this needle is situated in the middle
of a ring which shows 360 degrees. Now matter in which direction
the boat heads, the compass still points to Magnetic North.


Boats with lots of metal have their own magnetic fields and the
compass may respond to it and be pulled somewhat away from the
direction of magnetic north. When this happens, it is called
compass deviation and needs to be compensated for. This can be
done by installing small internal magnets in the compass, or,
you can make up a deviation chart for your boat and refer to it
when figuring out what course to steer by your compass. This
especially applies to the small boat sailor who won't be using a
mounted compass with magnets.


Often you will be given a course to steer from one place to
another in true directions. This means that you will have to
convert this to magnetic in order to steer this course with your
compass. There is a very consistent and simple rule to follow
when going from true to magnetic. In the Eastern US and Canada,
to go from a true course to a magnetic course, you add a west
variation. To go from a magnetic course to a true course, you
subtract a west variation. In the Western US and Canada, to go
from a true course to a magnetic course, you subtract an east
variation To go from a magnetic course to a true course, you add
an east variation.

Sailing Terms

Piloting-Navigation performed using visual references such as
aids to navigation.

Aids to Navigation-Established markers on land or sea that aid
sailors to avoid danger and fix their position.

Bearing-The direction of an object to an observer, such as a
buoy or other boat. Chart-A nautical map.


Nun- A buoy that is not lit but numbered, red and pointed, and
always on the starboard side when returning from seaward, port
side when going out.

Can- A buoy that is not lit but numbered, green and flat, and
always on the port side when returning from seaward, starboard
side when going out.

Happy Sailing! __/)_

About the author:
Linda Cullum is from Cape Cod, MA, with a second home in
Vermont. She is the author of Learn to Sail! with Multimedia! a
Sailing training CDROM/DVD which teaches all aspects of Sailing
including Knots, Piloting, Rules of the Road, Weather with
digital video from Sail Magazine, narration, animation and

Click here
to visit her site!
Happy Sailing_/)__

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