The motorboat crossing the paths with a pwc: What actions to take?

motorboat crossing the paths with a pwc

Meeting another boat at sea is like approaching an unmarked intersection on the road.

Just like you have to follow a set of rules when you reach a cross-section, you must follow specific rules when approaching another boat at sea. You must follow simple rules to avoid a collision.

It is essential to know what to expect when you cross paths with another vessel. When in water, there are rules to govern the action of each vessel.

Unfortunately, many vessel operators do not know the rules. Not complying with regulations can get you in trouble.

While taking a Boat Ed or boating exam, you may come across the question –

If the motorboat is crossing the paths with a PWC, what action should be taken?

The correct answer to this question is – The vessel on the left (port) hand side should be the one to give way.

Now let us read some more information on the topic.

motorboat crossing the paths with a pwc

What is a PWC?

A personal watercraft (PWC) is a recreational watercraft that uses an inboard jet drive as its primary propulsion source.

Also known as a water scooter, a PWC is designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling on it.

What action to take if a motorboat crossing the paths with a pwc?

If a motorboat is crossing the paths with a PWC, the vessel on the port(left) side should give way.

A PWC should be treated like a motorboat. The rules are the same for a PWC or a motorboat.

If one vessel is crossing from the port side and the other one is crossing from the starboard side, then the one crossing from the port side is the make-way vessel and must alter its speed to avoid a collision.

The vessel on the starboard side must be given time to cross first.

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Who has the right of way on the water?

Every captain should know the basics about what one has to do when two boats approach each other on the water.

Here are some guidelines that you must understand and follow –

  • Stand-on vessel – The boats that enjoy the right-of-way are known as ‘stand-on vessels.’ The stand-on vessel can maintain speed and direction while approaching other vessels.

If you are the stand-on vessel, it is your responsibility to acknowledge the give-way vessel’s intended actions.

You must maintain your speed and current course until the give-way vessel passes or you enter a dangerous situation.

  • Give-way vessel – The boats that are not given the right-of-way are known as give-way vessels.

    A give-way vessel should take early, substantial measures to steer clear of the stand-on vessel. You must stop, alter the speed and direction of your boat to avoid a collision.

    If you are the give-way vessel, it is your responsibility to signal your intentions to the stand-on craft.  It is also your responsibility to maneuver your boat around the other in a safe manner.

Which is the stand on vessel motorboat or PWC?

PWCs are considered to be powerboats, and the same rules apply to them. In the scenario when a PWC encounters a motorboat, these are the rules of the road that come into play –

Meeting head-on

When a PWC and a motorboat are about to meet head-on, each vessel should move to the starboard side and pass in a normal traffic pattern (Pass with the other vessel to port.)

Vessels crossing paths

When a PWC wishes to cross the path of a motorboat, the direction of the approach is the factor that determines which one has the right of way. If a motorboat approaches you from the starboard side, it has the right of way.

You must take early and substantial action to avoid the other craft. If the other vessel approaches you from your port side, you have the right of way and must maintain your speed and course.

Overtaking another boat

Overtaking another boat is legal. You can do so either on the port side or on the starboard side.

According to the Collision Regulations, the vessel intending to overtake another one on the starboard side should sound one blast of the horn.

After ensuring the starboard side is clear, the boat that has to be overtaken should respond by sounding a single blast of the horn, indicating that the overtaking boat can proceed.

If the intention is to pass on the port side, the overtaking vessel has to sound two blasts on the horn to indicate their intent. 

After ensuring that the port side is clear, the vessel that has to be overtaken should respond by sounding two blasts of the horn, indicating that the overtaking boat can proceed.

What should a powerboat do when crossing paths with a sailboat?

If you are operating a powerboat, you must always give way to a sailing vessel unless the sailing vessel is overtaking your vessel.

There is a pecking order that determines the right of way for vessels of different types. Understand this list and get familiar with it.

The vessels lower on the list are the give-way vessels and must stay out of the way of the boats that are higher on the list.

1. Overtaken vessel (top priority)

2. Vessels not under command

3. Vessels that are restricted in their ability to maneuver

4. Vessels that are constrained by draft

5. Fishing vessels that are engaged in fishing, with gear deployed

6. Sailing vessels

7. Power-driven vessels

What should a sailboat operator do when approaching a PWC head-on?

The sailboat operator should maintain its current speed and the current course as it is the stand-on craft.

The motorized PWC is the give-way craft, so it should maneuver to avoid the sailboat as the sailboat lacks maneuverability.  On a head-to-head collision, both vessels should pass port to port.

What do you do if you are operating a motorboat that is being overtaken by a sailboat?

If you are operating a motorboat being overtaken by a sailboat, you should keep going as you are. The vessel that is being overtaken is always the stand-on vessel.

The vessel you are overtaking is the give-way vessel, regardless of whether it is a power-driven vessel or a sailboat.

Now, let’s look at some frequently asked questions related to PWC and what actions to when motorboat crossing the paths with a pwc.

Can you consider a PWC a boat?

The US Coast Guard classifies the PWC as a Class A Inboard Boat (a boat less than 16 feet in length).

They are designed to carry up to three persons and can be operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling on the watercraft.

A PWC does not look like a boat but is subjected to the same laws as a yacht, and all boating licenses also work the same way.

What are the legal requirements to operate a PWC?

The legal requirements to operate a PWC include –

  • A person should be a minimum of 16 years of age to operate a PWC.
  • You need to wear a personal floatation device to operate a PWC.
  • If you want to ride in the dark, you will need to have navigational lights.
  • All operators of personal watercraft must have a Boating Safety Education Certificate in their possession.
  • All operators of PWC should adhere to boating law as violating these laws can have legal consequences.

Is it safe to ride PWC at night?

It is illegal to ride a PWC at night in most states in the US. In some states, it is allowed, but you have to have to correct navigational lights installed and turned on.

 However, it is not safe to drive PWCs at night as the rider can get seriously hurt. The navigational lights of the PWC can confuse the other boats, especially from a distance.

A PWC can move fast and suddenly change direction, which can confuse the other boaters at night.

Are you required to wear a PFD on a PWC?

Each person on board a PWC must wear a US Coast Guard-approved wearable Type I, II, or III PFD.

How much distance should one PWC maintain from another PWC or boat?

A PWC should maintain a distance of 50 feet from any other boat, PWC, or jet ski. A PWC should maintain a similar distance from other people in the water, stationary platforms in the water, and shorelines.

What actions to take if a sailboat under sail is about to cross paths with a PWC?

If a sailboat under sail is about to cross paths with a PWC, the PWC should change its speed and course. The power-driven vessel is the give-way vessel, and the sailing vessel is the stand-on vessel.

If two boats are traveling on paths that will cross, what determines which boat is the give-way vessel?

The answer depends on these two factors –

1. How are the vessels propelled?

  • Two power-driven vessels
  • Two sailing vessels
  • A power-driven vessel and a sailing vessel

2. How are the two vessels approaching one another?

  • Meeting head-on – the vessel operator can see another vessel ahead.
  • Paths that cross- this involves a risk of collision
  • Overtaking – A vessel is trying to overtake another vessel from behind.

Final thoughts on the motorboat crossing the paths with a pwc

I hope you are now familiar with all the rules and laws regarding passing, crossing, and overtaking different vessels in the water.

In this post, we have tried to answer all your questions regarding PWCs, including what to do when the motorboat crossing the paths with a pwc. We hope you find this information helpful for your boating exams.

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motorboat crossing the paths with a pwc