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Masthead Lights at Night and Rules of the Road – Sail Away Girl


Hello Sailors,

I just attended the Waukegan Sail and Power Squadron’s presentation on Rules of the Road last Tuesday at the Waukegan Yacht Club. One of the topics discussed was the light configurations that are required to be displayed on various boat types and lengths. Well I just came across this article in Cruising Compass addressing this very issue in an artilcle called Masthead Lights Can Help You Pass Ships at Night. Captain John is the author once again. To read the article just click here. By the way, the tool Captain John is referring to in his tip at the end of the article is pictured above. I have one and it is really a great tool.

For the Rules of the Road, I learned that for International waters there is an additional ColReg (Collision Regulation) that I was not aware of before. To help remember the order of priority I had been taught the following “Overnight Rooms For Sale Plus Sally” where:

O = Overtaken
R = Restricted Maneuverability
N = Not Under Command
F = Fishing (Commercial Fishing)
S = Sailboat (not motor sailing)
P = Power Boat (any vessel propelled by machinery is the Coast Guard’s definition)
S = Sea Plane

Well for International Waters there is a 8th priority to be added between Restricted Maneuverability and Fishing and that is C = Constrained by Draft. So I guess I need to memorize Overnight Rooms Come For Sale Plus Sally; at least until I come up with something better.

By the way, there is an Android app called ColRegs: Rules of the Road for $2.99. It has mixed reviews but might be worth checking out. It has tests and graphics. If you are interested, click here.

See you on the water,
Sail Away Girl


  1. I thought “constrained by draft” would fall under “restricted maneuverability”. It’s pretty much the same idea.

    • It’s not the same thing per ColRegs. ColReg Rule 3 defines constrained by draft as:
      “a vessel constrained by her draft” means a power driven vessel which, because of her draft in relation to the available depth and width of the navigable water is severely restricted in her ability to deviate from the course she is following.

      This is an International Rule. It has NO bearing in the US Inland rules.

      A vessel who cannot alter course due to the draft (the distance from the waterline to the keel) of her hull. For example if the draft is 10ft and on her current course the water depth is 11 ft but to the port and starboard of her the water depth is 5 ft. she is thus constrained to that course (she cannot deviate from it) because of her draft. She will display a day shape in the form of a can or cylinder, it can resemble a can of beer, remember a “draft of beer” and 3 red all round lights at night.

      Whereas Rule 3 defines restricted in maneuverability as:

      a “vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver” as one unable to keep out of the way because of “the nature of her work.”

      So they are distinguished in the ColRegs. Nonetheless I see your point. Seems like splitting hairs, but they’re not my rules. 🙂

      I am grateful for all of your feedback Brian. You’re keeping me on my toes!