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The Rule Most Frequently Broken

In the January 18 ‘Lectronic Latitude, we asked the following quiz question: ‘What is the official maritime rule most often broken by sailors?’

Somewhat to our surprise, almost everyone who responded — and there must have been more than 100 — got it right.

Under COLREGS Rule 34 (g): "When a power-driven vessel is leaving a dock or berth, she shall sound one prolonged blast."

Coming in a close second in unobserved maritime rules is the one that requires vessels to sound three short blasts when the engine is put in reverse.

Mind you, we don’t have statistical proof that these are the rules most frequently broken, we’re just pretty sure they are.

Means by which to comply with Rule 34 (g).

© Small Boats Monthly

Here are a couple more sound signals: If two vessels are approaching from opposite directions, one short blast indicates confirmation of wanting to pass using the traditional protocol, port to port. Two short blasts indicates wanting to pass starboard to starboard. Five short blasts, commonly sounded by big ships on the Bay, means danger or the approaching boat’s intentions are not understood.

One prolonged blast every two minutes should be sounded when operating an engine-powered vessel in low or restricted visibility (i.e. dense fog). If you’re operating a sailboat in low or restricted visibility, you are required to sound one prolonged blast and one short blast every two minutes.

One question begets another. If just about everybody knows they are required to sound a blast whenever they are motoring away from their dock, how come nobody does it? When is the last time you heard anyone with a recreational boat sounding a single blast when leaving the dock? Write us here.

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