Learn How to Sail - Sailing Rules & Instructions

Sail

Mastering sailing basics means being familiar with essential right-of-way sailing rules. One thing to remember is that there are different right-of-way sailing instructions for sailboats as opposed to powerboats. Continue reading below for a helpful overview of basic sailing rules, based on the COLREGS (International Regulations for Avoiding Collisions at Sea): 

1. Always maintain a proper lookout by sight as well as hearing to avoid colliding with other boats 

2. Maintain a safe speed at all times so that you remain in control of your boat 

3. Use common sense when assessing risk of collision with other boats near and around you 

4. Port tack gives way to starboard tack: If two sailboats are approaching each other and the wind is on a different side of each boat, then sailing rules are that the sailboat which has the wind on the port side must always give right of way to the other. (The port side is the left-hand side of the boat when you are facing the front.) 

5. Windward gives way to leeward: If two sailboats are approaching each other and the wind is on the same side of each boat, then sailing rules are that the vessel which is to windward (the direction of the wind) must give the right of way to the vessel which is leeward (the opposite direction of the wind). 

6. If you are at risk of colliding with another boat and all else fails, then agreed sailing rules are that whichever boat has the other boat on its starboard side must yield right of way. (The starboard is the right-hand side of the boat when you are facing the front.) 

7. Any vessel overtaking another should always keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken. 

8. A sailboat should always keep out of the way of any boat that is: a) not under command, b) restricted in its ability to maneuver, and c) engaged in fishing 

9. When passing through a narrow channel, sailing instructions are to keep as close to the outer edge as possible. 

10. Non-commercial powerboats usually give way to sailboats, unless the sailboat is overtaking it. However, general sailing instructions are also that sailboats should try to stay out of the way of large vessels and ferryboats that may find it harder to slow or change direction—especially in narrow channels.