Crossing Paths With Other Boats: Frequently Asked Questions

DISCLOSURE: is reader supported so if you buy any products featured on this site I may earn an affiliate commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my full disclosure here.

Here are some common frequently asked questions about crossing paths with other boats.

Which Side Do You Pass Another Boat On?

When caught in boating traffic, you should pass, maintaining a safe distance on the left (port) or the right (starboard) side.

The side you pass on depends on the boat’s position. You have to know the sectors of navigation first.

There are three sectors port, starboard and stern, which determine which side you pass on.

The type of craft you are approaching will also determine how you will overtake it or if you won’t overtake it at all.

When Two Boats Meet Who Has Right Of Way?

If you are approaching a sailboat, it has the right of way.

When a power driven vessel is approaching your boat from the left, you have the right of way.

If it’s coming from the right, you do not have the right of way.

When you are the one overtaking another power-driven vessel, you are the give-way boat.

Determining the right way is based on the sectors of navigation.

You should also assess the collision risks before deciding the right pathway; it’s your responsibility as a boat operator.

How Do You Safely Pass Another Boat?

Ensure you determine the position of the boat in relation to yours.

Once you have the position, it is easy to know who has the right of way.

Also, determine the type of vessel it is, give way if it’s a sailboat.

To avoid any collisions, always choose the clear way even if you know you have the right of way.

In an emergency, the right way is a clear and safe path. To safely pass another boat, you should also ensure your navigation lights are working correctly.

A Powerboat Is About To Cross Paths With A Sailboat Under Sail; what Should The Powerboat Do?

When you are approaching a sailboat, you should allow the sailboat the right of way.

The only exception is when the non-powered vessel is overtaking you.

Otherwise, the powerboat should always give the right of way to the sailboats.

If you change your course and seed when the sailboat is approaching or overtaking, you risk causing an accident.

You should only change speed if you are on a collision course with the craft.

That is when you can go against the navigation rules.


I hope that’s answered your question about crossing paths with other boats.