From the Boathouse: The race (and right-of-way) is on


The good news is that early registration for this year's Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race, with this year's theme, "Wanna Race?," is open. The world's largest international yacht race is returning to attract the weekend just-for-fun sailors. This race is your opportunity to sail 125 nautical miles from Newport Beach to Ensenada with the fleet, and a peace of mind that you will be safe crossing the border with other boaters.

"You can be involved in the greatest yacht racing event in Southern California at any level, from cruising class to the fastest maxi's and multi-hulls," said Chuck Iverson, who is the commodore for the Newport Ocean Sailing Assn. He continued, "The kickoff party on Sunday to the world famous pre-race fiesta on the Thursday night before the Friday morning start, it will be a great time on and off the water."

The south-of-the-border activities are now hosted at the Hotel Coral and Marina, just north of the town of Ensenada. Sailors should plan to attend one of the seven safety seminars that will be held at various yacht clubs and West Marine stores from San Diego to Ventura. You can register and find more information at http://www.newportto

ensenada.comor on Facebook. I hope to see you south of the border at the Coral.

My tip of the week is a rules-of-the-road mini-quiz, which was originally published in the January newsletter of, by Capt. Rags Laragione.Laragione, who is the president of the Maritime Institute asked in the newsletter:

Two powerboats are in a crossing situation. Do you know which one has the right of way?

The correct answer is nobody. Before we delve further into this befuddling answer, let's draw an interesting contrast. With cars, there are some absolutes about who has the right of way.

On the water, however, it's a totally different thing.

In the U.S. Coast Guard's official rules of the road, the term "right of way" is not used at all in the international rules and is mentioned only once in Rule 9 of the inland waterways Section 1 — and only then in reference to the specific situation where downbound and upbound power vessels are operating in narrow channels or fairways on the Great Lakes or western rivers, or water specified by the Secretary.

Other than that, there is no reference to "right of way" anywhere else in the manual.

So, what about all the rules pertaining to who is the "give-way" and "stand-on" vessel? Remember that the vessel on the right typically has the right of way. When two powerboats are heading for a crossing situation, the stand-on vessel is suppose to maintain course and speed, and the give-way vessel is supposed to take the necessary action to avoid a collision. This is correct, but here's where things differ from the rules on the highways.

For example, if the skipper of the give-way vessel has negligently left the bridge to go below for a cup of coffee, and you as the skipper of the stand-on vessel notice the bridge on the give-way vessel is vacant thus a collision is imminent The burden of collision avoidance actually shifts to you.

This does not, however, relieve the give-way vessel of the obligation to keep out of the way, so if a collision occurs, you will both be at fault.

In fact, any time there is a collision between vessels, there were probably at least five or six other navigation rules that were broken. As a responsible operator of a vessel, you should be familiar with all of the U.S. Coast Guard's Navigation Rules, and particularly with regard to this article, review Rules 5, 6, 7 and 8.

The moral of the story is as an operator of a boat, you are never relieved of the burden to avoid a collision.

As Rags always says, "The key to safe boating is education, so let's get educated!"

And don't forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead's "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network at noon Saturdays and replayed at 10 a.m. Sundays.

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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