Collision Avoidance When ‘See and Avoid’ Fails

What’s your plan at night, in bad weather, or when the rules break down? COLREGs has a special rule for that.


The obvious answer for how to maneuver when vessels meet at sea is for everyone to follow the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, also known as the COLREGS. The COLREGs impose a system whereby all maneuvering will be predictable and completed with adequate clearance. But what if the rules break down? The boat is hove-to on autopilot and the crew is below. Visibility is poor and you got too close. A deck sweeping genoa blocked the view of a too-relaxed crew.  Or perhaps the driver of the other boat either does not understand COLREGS, or in the panic of the moment, forgets. Sail long enough and it will happen to you. So how should you respond?

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Drew Frye
Drew Frye, Practical Sailor’s technical editor, has used his background in chemistry and engineering to help guide Practical Sailor toward some of the most important topics covered during the past 10 years. His in-depth reporting on everything from anchors to safety tethers to fuel additives have netted multiple awards from Boating Writers International. With more than three decades of experience as a refinery engineer and a sailor, he has a knack for discovering money-saving “home-brew” products or “hacks” that make boating affordable for almost anyone. He has conducted dozens of tests for Practical Sailor and published over 200 articles on sailing equipment. His rigorous testing has prompted the improvement and introduction of several marine products that might not exist without his input. His book “Rigging Modern Anchors” has won wide praise for introducing the use of modern materials and novel techniques to solve an array of anchoring challenges.