What Should You Do to Avoid Colliding with Another Boat?

If you have found yourself here, then there are high chances that you have a boat examination test in the coming days. And you have stumbled across the question, “What should you do to avoid colliding with another boat?”.

Don’t worry because we have got you covered with all the points that are required for you to learn and more. Curious about ways to keep from overloading your boat?  Our Boating Buddy team has you covered.  

However, you might also be a boat owner and want to hit the waters instead of hitting another boat. Jokes apart, in this article we have provided sufficient information to ensure your and fellow boaters’ safety.

Tips You Need to Follow to Avoid Collision


Here are some basic yet essential points highlighted, which you MUST learn by heart:

  • If you are feeling weary or under the influence of alcohol, do not even dare to drive.
  • Make sure to look in all directions before making any turns.
  • Hire a person to look out for boats or floating debris while keeping a sharp watch yourself.
  • Follow the rules of navigation, or else you might find yourself in an icky situation.
  • Do not drive at high speeds, especially at night and during congested traffic.
  • You should be aware that after heavy rainfall, floating debris is common.
  • Use caution if you are driving directly towards the sun’s glare.

Some Rules You Need to Abide by to Avoid Collision

If you are a boat owner, then it is your absolute responsibility to stay alert and active so that your fellow boaters and passengers do not have to face danger. For that, you have to follow these below-mentioned rules:

  • In case you own a powerboat, you must give way to sailboats, towing boats, broken vessel, commercial fishing boat, and workboat.
  • As a sailboat owner, you have to give way to commercial fishing boats, boats that have been restricted to maneuver and any ship that is not under command.
  • A commercial fishing boat owner should give way to any broken/anchored boat and boats with restricted movement or boats that require a large draft.

Be on the Lookout for Other Boats

You should always be aware of any boats around you by maintaining proper lookout through hearing and sight. Be conscious about the weather, such as if there is too much fog, it might interfere with your visibility and result in an accident.


Sound Signals

It is your duty as a boater to carry a device which can produce a prolonged sound for 4-6 seconds. Use whistle or air horn if the boat is less than 12 meters away, and for larger ships, you will need a bell.

What Do Sound Signals Mean?

  • One short blast: To pass on the port side
  • Two short blasts: To pass on the starboard side
  • Three short bursts: The engine is in reverse
  • Five short blasts: Unable to understand the boat’s intentions
  • Single prolonged blast for around 5 seconds: Exiting a dock or berth, entering or leaving a blind turn
  • Single prolonged blast every two minutes: Power-driven vessel being operated in lack of visibility
  • Single prolonged blast along with 2 extra short blasts every two minutes: Sailboat being operated in restricted visibility

Get Your Basics Right

Avoiding collisions with another boat is possible if the boater knows all the sea rules and can smoothly handle various situations. You should be able to differentiate between starboard, port, and stern before you even begin boating. Port is left, starboard is right, and stern is at the rear.

Power-Driven Vessel Vs. Power-Driven Vessel

When overtaking a vessel or meeting with another boat head to head, you are required to know a handful of rules to avoid any collisions with another boat.


You are the give-away vessel if you are the one overtaking and the other boat is the stand-on vessel. And you can overtake it in both right or left direction. Just follow these simple rules:

  • If you are pulling ahead on the starboard of the vessel, you need to produce one short blast.
  • If you are overtaking on the starboard of the boat, then you need to signal with two short bursts.

Make sure the stand-on ship makes the same sound to signal you that it understands your intentions.

Approaching a Power-Driven Vessel from the Side

While approaching another boat on the port side, you are considered to be the give-away vessel. You must keep clear of the stand-on vessel and avoid a crash. In order to avoid such terrible situations, you have to:

While altering the course to your starboard, signal the stand-on boat with a short blast, and it must respond with the same sound and maintain its direction and speed.

Approaching a Power-Driven Vessel Head-On

When you are head-on with another power-driven boat, communication between the two boats is necessary to avoid any sort of accidents.

Two short bursts must be made during a head-on starboard encounter. This situation is generally created when there is some sort of obstruction or shoreline. Yet again, both the boats must signal with the same sound.

Power-Driven Vessel Vs. Sailboat

When you encounter a sailboat, you will always be the give-away vessel, essentially because the sailboat is the stand-on vessel. In the case of meeting head-on or even approaching a sailboat from the side, the power-driven vessel must give way.

However, when it comes to overtaking the boat that passes is always the give-away vessel regardless of if it is a sailboat or a power-driven one.

Sailboat Vs. Sailboat 

By knowing the direction of the wind, collisions between sailboats can be avoided, in situations where the direction of the wind is on opposite sides in each boat. If the wind is on the port side of a boat, it is considered to be the give-away boat, and the one on the starboard side is the stand-on boat.


When both of the boats receive the wind on the same side, suppose on the port, the boat closest to the wind (upwind) is considered to be the give-away boat. And the one further from the wind (downwind) is considered to be the stand-on boat.

Final Words

We hope that this article appears to be the perfect guideline for you, and can minimize any issues you might face with boat collisions. Do not hop on a boat in bad weather even if you are fond of adventures, and make sure you have properly learned all the basic rules.

The importance of communication between your fellow boaters is undeniable. We have provided you with adequate supplementary information. If you still have any confusions, make sure to drop your questions in the comments section below.

Last Updated on December 7, 2021