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Hi and welcome! I am a sailing and mountain enthusiast. I live on Cape Cod and in Vermont so I have the best of both worlds! I am a musician and computer programmer. I designed, produce and market a CDROM called Learn to Sail! with Multimedia! A digital textbook that delivers information in an entertaining, interactive way. Learn to Sail is a great accompaniment to sailing lessons. A digital textbook that delivers information in an entertaining, interactive way. Digital video is from Sail Magazine, and material is presented by voice, which is played concurrently with displayed text. And there are quizzes along the way to test your knowledge.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rules of the Road...Who has the Right of Way?

Welcome aboard to my Sailing Tips Blog! Today we have Determining Risk of Collision, Sailing Terms and Deviation and Variation. Please feel free to comment on anything here and visit our Web Site for a free Rules of the Road download!

The Right of Way rules do not technically come into effect between boats until there is the possibility of collision.
Sailboats should never get so close to each other so that a risk of collision exists. vessels should pass portside to portside and as far to starboard as water depth permits.

When two sailboats meet there are three rules to follow.

1. The boat on the port tack gives way to the boat on the starboard tack.
2. When on the same tack, the windward boat gives way to the leeward boat.
3. The overtaking vessel keeps clear of the slower vessel.

To learn more about the rules of the road, download a Free! "Rules of the Road" article with graphics at our site at

Sailing Terms

Piloting-Navigation performed using visual references such as aids to navigation.
Aids to Navigation-Established markers on land or sea that aid sailors to avoid danger and fix their position.
Bearing-The direction of an object to an observer, such as a buoy or other boat.
Chart-A nautical map.
Nun- A buoy that is not lit but numbered, red and pointed, and always on the starboard side when returning from seaward, port side when going out.
Can- A buoy that is not lit but numbered, green and flat, and always on the port side when returning from seaward, starboard side when going out.

Piloting- Deviation and Variation

There are two types of Poles; the Geographic North and South Poles, also called True North and True South, and the Magnetic North and South Poles. The Geographic poles are stationary. The earth is a big magnet with magnetic lines of force running from the magnetic north pole to the magnetic south pole. The magnetic pole is located in northern Canada; somewhat west of the Geographic Pole. It's location changes over long periods of time.

Variation is the angle between the magnetic north and the true north. This is indicated by a compass when it is free of any nearby magnetic influences.

A magnetized pointer, or needle, that is allowed to spin freely, will point to the magnetic north pole. On a boat compass, this needle is situated in the middle of a ring which shows 360 degrees. Now matter in which direction the boat heads, the compass still points to Magnetic North.


Boats with lots of metal have their own magnetic fields and the compass may respond to it and be pulled somewhat away from the direction of magnetic north. When this happens, it is called compass deviation and needs to be compensated for. This can be done by installing small internal magnets in the compass, or, you can make up a deviation chart for your boat and refer to it when figuring out what course to steer by your compass. This especially applies to the small boat sailor who won't be using a mounted compass with magnets.


Often you will be given a course to steer from one place to another in true directions. This means that you will have to convert this to magnetic in order to steer this course with your compass. There is a very consistent and simple rule to follow when going from true to magnetic.

In the Eastern US and Canada, to go from a true course to a magnetic course, you add a west variation.
To go from a magnetic course to a true course, you subtract a west variation.

In the Western US and Canada, to go from a true course to a magnetic course, you subtract an east variation
To go from a magnetic course to a true course, you add an east variation.

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