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    Re: Rules of the Road While Backing
    From: Mike A. LeButt
    Date: 1999 Feb 07, 19:43 EST

    At 11:13 2/6/99 -0800, Lu, Sandy & Katie Abel wrote in part:
    >I come down squarely on the side of the direction of travel determining a
    >vessel's port and starboard (and stern) sides.
    I agree...when it's a vessel that routinely travels "backwards", like a
    double-ended ferry.  I would not extend the concept to include single-bowed
    vessels while temporarily backing - the situation we are most likely to
    encounter (I never saw the original thread...perhaps you never meant to
    include this occurrence anyway).  In the "overtaking" situation to which I
    referred, it doesn't matter which side is port or starboard.  The
    overtaking rule takes precedence over other meeting/crossing rules and
    makes no reference to direction of travel (for either vessel).
    >As Mike points out, double-ended ferries have a double set of navigation
    >lights and illuminate the proper set for whatever direction they happen to
    >be traveling in.  However, I don't agree with his logic that they do this
    >because they have two sets of propulsion gear.  I've seen small
    >double-ended ferries which don't.  Rather, I think they do this because
    >their bow, stern, port, and starboard are determined by their direction of
    >travel at the moment.
    I never meant that the *reason* lights are switched is that the vessels
    have two sets of propulsion gear...it was just an observation that such
    double-ended vessels *generally* have two sets of propulsion gear (it being
    much more efficient) and never operate "astern propulsion"...making them a
    special case.
    >With respect to the question of the three whistle blasts:  Although a
    >vessel backing out of a dock ought to sound a three-blast signal...
    A vessel leaving a dock or berth (forward, backward, or sideways) sounds
    one prolonged blast.  The three-blast signal means nothing more than "I am
    operating astern propulsion" and, under the Inland Rules (where most dock
    departures occur) applies only to meeting or crossing situations.  There is
    no requirement to signal 3 blasts while backing from a dock if there is not
    a meeting or crossing vessel in sight (just as a vessel leaving a dock in a
    *forward* direction does not sound one or two short blasts when no meeting
    or crossing vessels are in sight).
    >very few large vessels can really travel in reverse...
    The Rules apply to all power-driven vessels, not just the relatively tiny
    population of "large" vessels.  I'll wager that most power-driven vessels
    (especially the ones we are mostly likely to encounter in our everyday
    boating lives - fishing vessels, workboats, pleasure-craft, CG cutters,
    law-enforcement vessels, tugs, etc., etc. ) can, and do, travel in reverse
    and move backwards quite soon after applying astern propulsion.
    >...the three-blasts warning is not "I'm going backwards."
    Agreed.  As stated several times previously, three blasts means nothing
    more than "I am operating astern propulsion."
    
    >Rather the intent of Rule 34 is to provide a warning to other vessels that
    a vessel >in normal forward motion is slowing or stopping by operating its
    engines in >reverse
    Though, again, the Rules apply to all motor-driven vessels...including the
    majority that begin to move backwards shortly after engines are reversed.
    If there is any conclusion to be drawn from all this, it is that it's
    difficult to write the Rules to cover all occurrences.  Confusion will
    result when  circumstances occur that were unforeseen by the writers, or
    when the vessels involved don't follow the rules.  In anticipation, the
    rule-makers required that the stand-on vessel ultimately take necessary
    action to best avoid collision.
    At the end of the day, the idea is to stay the #{at}%$& out of the way of
    other vessels - especially the ones bigger than you!
    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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