All at sea – with no idea

When in charge of a vessel at sea – everything from a canoe to a supertanker is a vessel – then you have to know and abide by the international “rules of the road”. These can be as easy as right before left when two motor boats meet but for sail boats they get a little more complicated.

If two vessels are under sail and approaching one another then the boat with the wind coming from the starboard side must keep a constant course and speed. The vessel with the wind coming from the port side must make obvious and timely adjustments to avoid collision. If both vessels have the wind on the same side then the upwind boat must do the avoiding. If one boat has its engine on then that boat must do the avoiding.

Do any of the these skippers understand how to interact with other boats?

I admit that the above sounds complicated and it can be even more so in real life but I always thought that the fact some one was out sailing around meant that they at least theoretically understood the rules. But we are now among the Whitsunday Islands and surrounded by charter boats. Yesterday a sailor told me that the people in charge of these boats have no idea at all. I assumed she was wrongly informed so I just checked the Internet.

No formal boating qualifications or licences are required to charter with Whitsunday Escape. Some boating knowledge and experience is all it takes. 

Whitsunday Escape

To enjoy your bareboat charter you don’t need any sort of boat license, just some basic boating experience.

Charter Yachts Australia

Boating licences and qualifications are not a requirement for charter hire …

Cumberland Charter Hire

That is so frightening. Basically we have to assume that every charter boat we meet has no idea of how to safely interact with us. I would suggest we call them on the VHF radio and try to explain what should happen but we tried that once and they appeared to have the radio off (which is also not allowed).

The only sensible solution seems to be to head north away from this stupidity.


Within minutes of posting this blog entry I received the following messages.

  • Anyone that claims to know “how to sail”, qualifies to charter a yacht. Indeed, stay clear of charter boats. Sail and socialise with the “live aboards” ….they understand the rules. Annie
  • Oh so true – the charter yacht stupidity is beyond comprehension. Best way to avoid them is to head north! Neville
  • “The only sensible solution seems to be to head north away from this stupidity.” You’ll have to go all the way to the Arctic and that might not even do the trick. It seems to me that knowing the rules is actually dangerous as well as a huge disadvantage (to your boat, your safety, and especially to your mental health). If you don’t know the rules, you won’t be expecting anyone to do the right thing. Rich
  • I experienced this recently in the Ijsselmeer. A motor boat maintained its course to miss us (sailing) by maybe 20 metres across our bow. The guy just looked at us as he went past. Davo

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