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    Re: Rules of the Road While Backing
    From: Lu Abel
    Date: 1999 Feb 06, 14:13 EST

    When I first saw this thread I thought of the question in terms of vessels
    during daylight hours.  Mike brings up the issue of vessels displaying
    their normal navigation lights while operating in reverse and the confusion
    that would cause.  But that begs the question of whether a vessel operating
    in reverse should display its normal navigation lights or should in fact be
    displaying the correct navigation lights for the (backwards) direction in
    which it is operating.
    I come down squarely on the side of the direction of travel determining a
    vessel's port and starboard (and stern) sides.  If not, how is one supposed
    to determine which is the bow of a truly double-ended 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.
    To support this argument, let's go back to daylight and forget navigation
    lights.  Suppose I encountered a double-ended vessel (eg, one of the
    aforementioned ferries).  If port and starboard sides are not determined by
    direction of travel, how am I supposed to figure out which is which on the
    vessel I'm approaching?  No double-ended ferry I've seen has a "this is the
    bow" sign on its side!
    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 very few
    large vessels can really travel in reverse, so the three-blasts warning is
    not "I'm going backwards."  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 (obviously a useful thing
    to know if you're trying to figure out how to avoid it).
    At 12:58 AM 2/6/99 -0800, captainmike7{at}XXX.XXX wrote:
    >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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