Boating, as a recreational sport, has been around for over 300 years. During this time many customs and traditions have been developed in order to help relieve the natural stress that comes with dealing with the elements. No matter how long you have been boating there is always that tense feeling when you are out there on your own. If this feeling ever goes away, you should probably take up golf. Whether underway, anchoring, mooring, docking at a marina or cruising with friends, don’t add to the stress of your boating neighbor by ignoring custom and tradition.
Obviously, the rules of the road are going to dictate how you operate your vessel underway in order to prevent collision. But what if no risk of collision exists, are you then free to do whatever you want when operating in the vicinity of other vessels? Above all, remember that you are responsible for you own wake and any damage done by it.
When overtaking a slower vessel in open water, do so with as much room as depth conditions allow and slow your speed, if necessary, to avoid rocking the other vessel. There is nothing worse than being below in a slow trawler or sail boat, cooking breakfast, and being suddenly overtaken in close quarters by a loud, wake-throwing, go-fast boater. Especially if the wake causes the hot bacon grease and coffee to be thrown around the galley.
It should be remembered that sometimes the boat being overtaken may need to slow its speed to accommodate the overtaking vessel. If you are proceeding at 8 knots, the passing boat can only slow to about 10 knots to still have enough speed difference to pass successfully. However, at that speed the overtaking vessel still throws an uncomfortable wake. You may need to slow to 4 knots to allow the overtaking vessel to pass at 6 knots which allows for a much smaller wake.
If you are overtaking a vessel under sail, if possible, overtake them well to leeward or pass astern in a crossing situation, so as not to block their wind.