Port vs. Starboard

Greever

Super Anarchist
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Rockford, MI
Methersgate 14 has got me thinking:

How old are the Port vs. Starboard rules?

He had mentioned Galleys being traditionaly placed on portside, so that cooking underway you can remain on starboard tack and have the galley low.

Then in another thread I noticed he said that the main halyard is traditionally placed on the starboard side.

My boat is set up that way, but I think it's interesting to learn why.

So anyone know, how old are the right of way rules?

 
Caution - I can get really boring about this - I once taught Colregs to junior officers at a training centre.

Starting from the top...

The requirement that a vessel on port tack gives way to a vessel on starboard tack is thought to have originated in the North Sea; it was certainly established by the middle of the 18th century, i.e. it pre-dates the independence of the USA and therefore formed a part of the US law maritime from the outset, as it was accepted by all the nations trading in the North Sea, including Britain.

The lights were settled at about the time that the railways started - the idea was copied from railway signals (new idea in 1840!) - green for "go", red for "danger". If you see a red light you give way.

Now things get interesting...

If we think carefully, we can see that there is no need to have a "stand on" and a "give way" vessel when power driven vessels are meeting - the requirement is only necessary for sailing vessels meeting on opposite tacks when close hauled, because neither can alter to windward.

The first collision regulations for power driven vessels were promulgated by Trinity House in 1840, and required two power driven vessels meeting to BOTH alter course.

("bloody good idea", say a great many professionals, considering the number of collisions between ships caused by confustion as to whether the burdened vessel has taken, or is about to take, sufficient avoiding action - the Rule 17 nightmare )

Rule 17

Action by Stand-on Vessel

(a)

(i) Where one of two vessels is to keep out of the way of the other shall keep her course and speed.

(ii) The latter vessel may however take action to avoid collision by her maneuver alone, as soon as it becomes apparent to her that the vessel required to keep out of the way is not taking appropriate action in accordance with these Rules.

( B) When, from any cause, the vessel required to keep her course and speed finds herself so close that collision cannot be avoided by the action of the give-way vessel alone, she shall take such action as will best aid to avoid collision.

© A power driven vessel which takes action in a crossing situation in accordance with subparagraph (a)(ii) of this Rule to avoid collision with another power driven vessel shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, not alter course to port for a vessel on her own port side.

(d) This Rule does not relieve the give-way vessel of her obligation to keep out of the way.

There is an international lobby amongst those concerned to amend the 1972 Colregs, when next up for revision, to elimiate the distinction between ships in sight of one another and ships not in sight of one another - this is known as the Rule 19 lobby. Rule 19, the rule for conduct " in restricted visibility" has no "stand on" and "give way" requirements:

Rule 19

Conduct of Vessels in Restricted Visibility

(a) This rule applies to vessels not in sight of one another when navigating in or near an area of restricted visibility.

( B) Every vessel shall proceed at a safe speed adapted to the prevailing circumstances and condition of restricted visibility. A power driven vessel shall have her engines ready for immediate maneuver.

© Every vessel shall have due regard to the prevailing circumstances and conditions of restricted visibility when complying with the Rules of Section I of this Part.

(d) A vessel which detects by radar alone the presence of another vessel shall determine if a close-quarters situation is developing and/or risk of collision exists. If so, she shall take avoiding action in ample time, provided that when such action consists of an alteration in course, so far as possible the following shall be avoided:

(i) An alteration of course to port for a vessel forward of the beam, other than for a vessel being overtaken;

(ii) An alteration of course toward a vessel abeam or abaft the beam.

(e) Except where it has been determined that a risk of collision does not exist, every vessel which hears apparently forward of her beam the fog signal of another vessel, or which cannot avoid a close-quarters situation with another vessel forward of her beam, shall reduce her speed to be the minimum at which she can be kept on her course. She shall if necessary take all her way off and in any event navigate with extreme caution until danger of collision is over.

This relates mainly to ships, of course which are generally speaking power driven vessels these days!

Alas, at the Paris Conference in 1962 when the Colregs were adopted internationally (the USA was otherwise engaged at the time, with the late unpleasantness between the states) this excellent rule was dropped and the sailing ship closehauled rule was imposed on power driven vessels, with vessels giving way to vessels crossing from the starboard side.

And the 1972 Colregs descend, via numerous amending treaties, from the 1892 ones...

 
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Albatros

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Caution - I can get really boring about this - I once taught Colregs to junior officers at a training centre.

The requirement that a vessel on port tack gives way to a vessel on starboard tack is thought to have originated in the North Sea; it was certainly established by the middle of the 18th century, i.e. it pre-dates the independence of the USA and therefore formed a part of the US law maritime from the outset, as it was accepted by all the nations trading in the North Sea, including Britain.
Always amusing, and sometimes even dramatical to see that even on most basic terminologies there is still no worldwide commonality. Where in the Anglosaxon world you speak about port/starboard TACK, relating to the wind , in many (if not most) countries on the old continent the same rules are explained from the point of view of the location of the boom, which is of course the opposite. In my own language when I'm the stand on sailor it means I'm on portside (my boom is ...), we call it the portside rule.

Believe it or not, have already witnessed a collision between two dinghies, one with french speaking crew, one with english speaking crew, both were understanding the rules alright but since the one was calling the opposite word the other got pretty much confused and the split second it took them to get round to the idea it was just language or terminology confusion they were on top of one another ... but don't ask me which language was at fault ;)

so yet another little thingie for the imminent worldgirdlers on yonder side, not only green/red are swapped overhere, but sometimes also the lingo.

 
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Catamount

Super Anarchist
Alas, at the Paris Conference in 1962 when the Colregs were adopted internationally (the USA was otherwise engaged at the time, with the late unpleasantness between the states) this excellent rule was dropped and the sailing ship closehauled rule was imposed on power driven vessels, with vessels giving way to vessels crossing from the starboard side.
Do you mean 1862 instead of 1962?

I'ld always heard that the galley was to port because the race from Newport to Bermuda was typically a long reach on Starboard Tack...

 

Bryanjb

Super Anarchist
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Methersgate. Regarding Colregs: Does port/starboard not matter when one sailing vessel is overtaking another sailing vessel? (i.e., when going downwind) If the overtaking vessel is Starboard are they the give way vessel even if they are overtaking a Port tack boat? Which Colreg rule applies for sailing boats?

 

Albatros

Super Anarchist
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502
Methersgate. Regarding Colregs: Does port/starboard not matter when one sailing vessel is overtaking another sailing vessel? (i.e., when going downwind) If the overtaking vessel is Starboard are they the give way vessel even if they are overtaking a Port tack boat? Which Colreg rule applies for sailing boats?

look here and scroll a little down where it says that "The windward vessel is the one to give way, because she can take the wind out of the leeward vessels sails and reduce her manoeuvrability" : the rules, nothing but the rules, so help me ...

 
Methersgate. Regarding Colregs: Does port/starboard not matter when one sailing vessel is overtaking another sailing vessel? (i.e., when going downwind) If the overtaking vessel is Starboard are they the give way vessel even if they are overtaking a Port tack boat? Which Colreg rule applies for sailing boats?
I believe the boat ahead is always the stand-on vessel in an overtaking situation (except for not under command or restricted ability to manuver situations). IE, it doesn't matter who is power and who is sail, let alone port v starboard: if a fast sailboat is coming up behind a slow motorboat, the motorboat has rights.

 
I must apologise for getting two of the four dates I cited wrong!

It was of course 1862 when the Paris conference was convened and I meant "1862" and not "1962" or "1892".

But it mught have been 1863 - I'm working from memory, here.

Albatros, dear boy - we Anglo-Saxons speak of the starboard TACK and the port TACK because the TACK(S) of the square sail(s) was/were belayed to that side of the vessel, being the windward side, whilst the SHEET(S) was/were belayed to the leeward side.

Here is a boat that I've sailed on, demonstrating the point rather nicely:

SHShipRep1.jpg


No, not a Viking ship replica; she's a replica of the Sutton Hoo ship, from three centuries earlier, and hes, her steering oar is on the steerboard side.

It was once thought that the Sutton Hoo ship was a mere rowing boat and that the Anglo-Saxons were not clever enough to be able to sail, but paddled carefully round the shores of the North Sea, whilst the clever Vikings sailed straight across.

This replica, the SAE WYLFING, disproved that - she goes to windward very well indeed, and very quickly.

 

Albatros

Super Anarchist
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But it mught have been 1863 - I'm working from memory, here.
Albatros, dear boy - we Anglo-Saxons speak of the starboard TACK and the port TACK because the TACK(S) of the square sail(s) was/were belayed to that side of the vessel, being the windward side, whilst the SHEET(S) was/were belayed to the leeward side.

.
whoa, seems like I'm a wee boy indeed if you go back that far ! ;)

you know O oracle of the grand Deben, you're doing me a favour here, next time when my minute load of linguistically impaired little grey cells get all wrapped up in the question which was which, tack, head and clew , at least one will be correct as of now. silly as it may sound, the fact that it's put in english on my genny has already caused me to sit down once to think about which one was which, either by deduction or just by chance got it right and didn't make a fool of myself, now I'll be remembering this conversation & pic ... must say that in my own language it's more intuitive, and part of the confusion comes from the fact that first sailing lessons were in language number 2, froglish, at the end it gets all mixed up. ye olde great sailing lingo conundrum !

 
Methersgate. Regarding Colregs: Does port/starboard not matter when one sailing vessel is overtaking another sailing vessel? (i.e., when going downwind) If the overtaking vessel is Starboard are they the give way vessel even if they are overtaking a Port tack boat? Which Colreg rule applies for sailing boats?

The Overtaking Rule is an over-riding rule and overrides all the other steering and sailing Rules:

"Rule 13

Overtaking

(a) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Rules of Part B, Sections I and II, any vessel overtaking any other shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken.

( B) A vessel shall be deemed to be overtaking when coming up with a another vessel from a direction more than 22.5 degrees abaft her beam, that is, in such a position with reference to the vessel she is overtaking, that at night she would be able to see only the sternlight of that vessel but neither of her sidelights.

© When a vessel is in any doubt as to whether she is overtaking another, she shall assume that this is the case and act accordingly.

(d) Any subsequent alteration of the bearing between the two vessels shall not make the overtaking vessel a crossing vessel within the meaning of these Rules or relieve her of the duty of keeping clear of the overtaken vessel until she is finally past and clear"

This is the Rule for sailing vessels in sight of one another:

"Rule 12

Sailing Vessels

(a) when two sailing vessels are approaching one another, so as to involve risk of collision, one of them shall keep out of the way of the other as follows:

(i)when each of them has the wind on a different side, the vessel which has the wind on the port side shall keep out of the way of the other;

(ii) When both have the wind on the same side, the vessel which is to windward shall keep out of the way of the vessel which is to leeward;

(iii) if the vessel with the wind on the port side sees a vessel to windward and cannot determine with certainty whether the other vessel has the wind on the port or the starboard side, she shall keep out of the way of the other.

( B) For the purposes of this Rule the windward side shall be deemed to be the side opposite that on which the mainsail is carried or, in the case of a square rigged vessel, the side opposite to that on which the largest fore-and-aft sail is carried. "

Interestingly, this Rule was one of those that were changed in the 1972 Colregs. It was altered to bring it into line with the racing Rules, as Albatros says, because people were getting confused having to remember one rule for racing and one for the rest of the time.

There is no longer any special rule for sailing vessels in restricted visibility; a radar set does not tell you how the target is being propelled, so the sound signals were altered to "U" for sailing vessels, along with vessels not under command, etc.

 

Bob Perry

Super Anarchist
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Very interesting. But, if the steering oar were on the starboard side when you were on starboard tack you would have good vision. When you were on port tack your vision would be obscured. Right? or am I missing something here? If your vision were obscured when you were on the port tack I would think the port tack boat should have right of way.

BTW how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Got to go. It's Wednesday. I need to heat up my old crab boiling tub so I can bath and go to town.

 
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born2sail

Super Anarchist
I once heard that back in the olden days, journeyman boatbuilders assigned their apprentices to work on the port side of the boats. Thus it was assumed that the starboard side, being worked on by the journeyman, was the better built part of the boat. From this it was assumed that port should give way to starboard for logical reasons.

What say you, Bob?

 

Streetwise

Super Anarchist
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Lake Champlain
I once heard that back in the olden days, journeyman boatbuilders assigned their apprentices to work on the port side of the boats. Thus it was assumed that the starboard side, being worked on by the journeyman, was the better built part of the boat. From this it was assumed that port should give way to starboard for logical reasons.
What say you, Bob?
The preferred working side could have something to do with the location of the heads! ;)

 
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Monkey

Super Anarchist
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Very interesting. But, if the steering oar were on the starboard side when you were on starboard tack you would have good vision. When you were on port tack your vision would be obscured. Right? or am I missing something here? If your vision were obscured when you were on the port tack I would think the port tack boat should have right of way.
BTW how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Got to go. It's Wednesday. I need to heat up my old crab boiling tub so I can bath and go to town.
I think you've got this one backwards Bob. When the whole crew's on the weather rail, we often have to send someone to the low side to take a peek around the sails and see where the other boats are. With the steering board on the starboard side, this would mean that the helmsmen would be steering from the lowside while on port, thus able to keep an eye on the approaching starboard tacker.

 

Bob Perry

Super Anarchist
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Monkey: I'll buy that. My thought was on port tack the helmsman would be on the low side of the boat and unable to see over the weather rail. Of course on starboard the sail might obliterate his vision. Thinking on it I like your answer better.

 

deckersr

Anarchist
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Monkey: I'll buy that. My thought was on port tack the helmsman would be on the low side of the boat and unable to see over the weather rail. Of course on starboard the sail might obliterate his vision. Thinking on it I like your answer better.
Could it also have something to to with the use of the steering oar on the starboard (steer board) side? That is, on starboard tack with a bit of heel on the oar might have a less favorable angle to the water and less submersion? This would make the starboard tack actually less maneuverable and therefore using the same common sense as todays rules, a boat with restricted maneuverability has right of way?

Just a guess.

 

Christian

Super Anarchist
Monkey: I'll buy that. My thought was on port tack the helmsman would be on the low side of the boat and unable to see over the weather rail. Of course on starboard the sail might obliterate his vision. Thinking on it I like your answer better.
Having helmed a viking ship (replica) a couple of times I can say that you actually have pretty poor visibility on either tack and need a lookout to give you directions when in close quarters. According to one of the historians with specialty in the viking ships they actually had the port yields to starboard rule way back when these vessels were in vogue and the reason was that the steering oar was one of the most vulnerable pieces of the "hull" and hence the P/S rule to keep the steering oar as far out of danger as possible

 
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I think we must conclude that we really don't know when the "port tack gives way to starboard tack" rule was first invented and, more importantly, accepted.

What is really striking is that the port and starboard rule does not show up in the Code of Oleron, although the Code of Oleron does cover the situation of a vessel at anchor being given a foul berth, damage done by an anchor, damage to cargo and the relationship between the Master and the Mariners.

The Code of Oleron is generally dated to around the reign of Richard 1 (say, 1190) although the section on general average goes much further back, to the Code of Rhodes.

Either the rules stated in the Code of Oleron (which clearly is mainly concerned with the trade in wine between Bordeaux and England) ignores North Sea practices or the port and starboard rule was not established at the time when the Code of Oleron was promulgated.

There are a couple of gems, applicable to the yachtsman today:

(2) A ship is in a haven and stays to await her time, and the time comes for her departure, the master ought to take counsel with his companions and to say to them: "Sirs, you have this weather." There will be some who will say the weather is not good, and some who will say the weather is fine and good. The master is bound to agree with the greater part of his companions. And if he does otherwise, the master is bound to replace the ship and the goods, if they are lost

6) Mariners hire themselves out to their master, and some of them go ashore without leave, and get drunk, and make a row (fount contekes), and there are some of them who are hurt; the master is not bound to have them healed, nor to provide them with anything; on the contrary he may properly put them ashore, and hire others in their place; and if the others cost more than they did, they ought to pay, if the master can find anything of theirs, But if the master sends a mariner on any service of the ship, and the mariner wounds himself or is hurt, he is to he healed and maintained at the cost of the ship.

 




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