Skip to main content

At the end of this month, Boaters University will be launching a new course, Fundamentals of Seamanship: Navigational Rules. Our impetus for this course began a year ago, almost to the day, when the trawler, Nap Tyme was involved in a collision with the Washington State Ferry, Chetzemoka. The collision was the talk of the blogosphere and generated a lot of discussion amongst our readers.

Luckily there weren’t any injuries associated with this collision, minus the embarrassment of the skipper of Nap Tyme and the damage to his vessel (now repaired and back on the water). What was remarkable about this collision was how avoidable it was. Both parties in this incident made mistakes. Most notably, The Chetzemoka failed to yield right of way as the give-way vessel and the skipper of Nap Tyme failed to provide a proper watch (autopilot is not an acceptable watchstander). A USCG final report has yet to be issued. However, it seems as thought blame was assigned equally to both parties. It has been reported that the owner of Nap Tyme was fined an undisclosed amount and the commanding officer of the Chetzemoka had his license suspended for a short amount of time and had to retake a navigational rules course similar to this one.

Our coverage brought up a lot of questions from readers. Unfortunately, the great conversation that was had in the comments section of our online article was lost in the migration to our new website. However, one thing we came to realize is that many recreational boaters don’t have a strong understanding of the navigational rules and regulations that govern both our waters here in the US as well as the international rules that govern the waters beyond our maritime boards. (It should be noted that some waters within US maritime boards, such as the Salish Sea where the aforementioned accident took place, are actually governed by international rules).

A screen capture from an animation in this Fundamentals of Seamanship: Navigational Rules course.

A screen capture from an animation in this Fundamentals of Seamanship: Navigational Rules course.

While professional mariners, like those on the Chetzemoka are required to pass a USCG test on the navigational rules, no such benchmark exists for recreational mariners. Many states are starting to implement Boaters Safety Programs and Boater Safety Cards to ensure that mariners have some understanding of the navigational rules. But while professional mariners must pass their test 90%, State standards are quite a bit lower. This leads to a misunderstanding of the responsibility of seafarers and the rules and regulations that govern their interactions.

Think you have what it takes to pass a Navigational Rules test with a 90% already, go ahead and take this practice test!

But not being tested on these rules doesn’t excuse us from knowing them. We are still required to understand the intricacies of these rules, how they apply to us, and how they apply to the vessels around us. Often in the discussion of the Chetzemoka/Nap Tyme collision, I heard people say, “Well, I just give way to everyone, problem solved.” But that isn’t actually how it works, and in many ways, may make interactions much more dangerous.

Robert Reeder

Robert Reeder

From the questions many of our readers had, we developed this new Boaters University Course, Fundamentals of Seamanship: Navigational Rules. PassageMaker Magazine’s loyal contributor Robert Reeder, who writes about traditional navigation methods, instructs this course. He has an extensive background as both a professional and recreational mariner and has taught USCG licensing courses, including on the navigational rules and regulations, for many years. Robert will take you through the USCG Navigational Rules and Regulations handbook, explaining each rule and how it is applied on the water. Learn the same concepts that professional mariners are required to know to make your time on the water safer. This course, for new and experience boaters alike, will make you a better mariner and our waterways safer. 

Join us at Boaters University!