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    Re: Rules of the Road While Backing
    From: Mike A. LeButt
    Date: 1999 Feb 06, 03:58 EST

    At 20:34 2/5/99 -0800, Dennis W. Farrell wrote in part:
    >It is the practice of seamen to consider in such cases that the rules
    apply with >reference to the direction of motion of the ship so that for
    the time being, the >starboard side becomes the port side and the port side
    the starboard side.
    >In other words, we must consider the pilot of a backing vessel to be
    facing aft >toward the direction in which his ship is moving.  He must then
    keep clear of a >vessel on his right hand as if that were his starboard
    side.  And his whistle signals >must correspond.
    What, then, is the significance of Rule 34, which requires power-driven
    vessels when meeting or crossing to sound three short blasts to mean "I am
    operating astern propulsion"?  Surely not just to advise vessels off her
    bows that she is backing AWAY from them?
    This "direction-of-travel" interpretation is at odds with Rule 13(a):
    "NOTWITHSTANDING ANYTHING contained in the rules of Part B, Sections I and
    II, any vessel overtaking any other shall keep out of the way of the vessel
    being overtaken" and 13(b) "A vessel shall be deemed to be overtaking when
    coming up with another vessel from a direction more than 22.5 degrees abaft
    her beam (i.e. 67.5 degrees either side of dead astern)...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 sternlight of that vessel but neither of
    her sidelights."  Note that there is no reference to direction of travel in
    the "Overtaking" rule.  Under the "direction of travel" interpretation,
    must the vessel backing at night also relocate her sidelights and
    sternlight?  How else would other vessels know to treat her stern as her
    bow?  Relative motion can be difficult to interpret in the dark.
    I don't even want to BEGIN thinking about the situation where BOTH vessels
    are backing toward one another at night, each at 65 degrees to the other's
    stern.  Who's overtaking whom?
    (It is worth noting that vessels making a habit of not turning around when
    going back where they came from - primarily double-ended ferries -
    generally have machinery and propellers at each end, so they do not operate
    "astern propulsion".  They also reverse their navigation lights to
    accommodate direction of travel).
    P/Lt/C Michael A. LeButt, FC
    Balboa (Newport Beach, CA) Squadron
    "A ship in harbor is safe,
      but that's not what ships are for..."
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