Proper Passing Techniques on the AICW
The discussion below is copied from the American Great Loop Cruisers’ Association mailing list!
Faster boats passing slower vessels on the AICW, or any confined waterway for that matter, is a topic that brings on endless debate, and, very often, bruised feelings between captains and crews. The messages below make some excellent points, but, believe me, this source of contention will probably never be solved completely!
I don’t want to upset anyone. But I have a 26′ boat and plan to travel the ICW. I know at times its hard to see the names on boats when approaching them. I normally would call and ask for a side to pass and if I can do a fast pass. With my boat I think my wake is less if I stay on plane rather then down in the water but fast enough to pass. Not to mention fuel to slow and go. Like I said I don’t want to upset anyone and I will follow the rules of the road. I hope to make alot of new friends and someday soon to
move up in size.
Dave we wrote a post in our blog on the changes we have seen on the ICW over the past 20 years and addressed that very issue. The post can be read at http://trawler-beach-house.blogspot.com/2009/03/changes-on-icw.html. You are correct that in many smaller boats, staying on plane will cause less wake. Many boaters feel if you pass from a distance it will also cause less wake. Quite the opposite is true and the closer you are when passing, the less affect your wake has if you do it right. Here is an excerpt that describes our procedure for passing…
“In the interest of informing those unfamiliar, the rules of overtaking state that if you can not safely pass another vessel, you do not pass. Common courtesy from the boats that can’t travel very fast (you know who you are) dictates that you slow as much as possible to allow boats that can go faster (you know who you are) to pass safely. Those boats that can travel faster (you know who you are) must slow to a safe speed and reduce their wake so as not to cause damage or injury on the other vessel. Here is the procedure we have used successfully over the years without any complaints. We always approach the slower vessel dead astern of them and slow down to match their speed. We then call the vessel ahead to let them know we are there, which side we will pass on and ask them to slow down so that we can pass. We then pass as close in to the slower vessel as can be done safely and then move directly in front as soon as it is safe to do so. Once we are in front of the vessel we have passed, we can increase speed and go on our way with little inconvenience or discomfort to the other crew. It is a very simple procedure, but one that many have not yet mastered. Why can’t we all just get along?”
If we pull astern of a boat and they don’t answer the radio we usually give a blast or two on the horn depending on what side we want to pass them. If they don’t bother to answer the radio or slow down we continue on at a slightly faster speed and when we pull along side we ask them verbally to slow down if they want a smaller wake. It has been a topic of discussion amongst boaters for some time.
Having travelled the ICW on our Loop, I am constantly amazed how people think they don’t have a wake if they are on plane. Sit in a trawler or a sail boat and find out how much wake there various boats can throw up. Radio the boat ahead and if you can’t find their name they generally will know you are coming behind them and reply. They will also slow down to allow a minimal wake pass. I can’t count the number of times I was waked and had things flying around the interior cabin and sending a message to the boat telling them I appreciated their wake. Lots of fun too, if you are at the upper helm. Courtesy is always good form!
I have taken the boater’s safty course. I have just found that most large boats don’t slow down and the wake I make just to over take them is 3 times larger then the one I make on plane. I know that on plane there is a wake but not near as large as when I’m slightly over idle passing. Please I’m not trying to be disrespectful and I will bid by the rules of the road.. It gets frustrating for both parties big or small..I know I have come off plane when a large boat is coming at me only to have him maintain speed so I think what’s the sense.
Proper Passing Distance:
Although this topic is directed towards proper passing, let me take this opportunity to pass on (no pun intended) my knowledge about proper passing distance. Two years ago, I asked a Georgia DNR Officer what his most frequent moving violation ticket was written for. His response “Improper passing distance”. Georgia has a 100′ rule as do most states. Here is a copy of the rule:
Improper Distance is not maintaining a proper distance while operating a boat or PWC or towing a person on water skis or any similar device. Specifically, it is illegal to:
Operate a boat or PWC or tow a person on water skis or any similar device at greater than idle speed within 100 feet of a:
– Moored or anchored boat or any boat adrift
– Dock, pier or bridge
– Person(s) in the water
– Shoreline adjacent to a full – or part-time residence
– Public park or beach or a swimming area
– Marina, restaurant or other public use area
– Run around or within 100 feet of another boat at greater than idle speed unless you are overtaking or meeting the other boat in compliance with the rules for encountering other boats
– Follow closely behind another boat, jump the wake of the other boat or change course or direction in order to jump the wake of another boat
Many waterways, canals and rivers on the ICW will cause us to encounter these “100 foot” meeting or passing situations and there are several hunderd miles of locations where we will be within 100 feet of a dock (private or commercial). While this quote is from the laws in Georgia, most ICW bordering states have similar rules on passing distance. Unless I am in fairly open bays, lakes, or wide rivers, I usually slow down to idle speed whenever I am in a passing or in an overtaking situation. I always slow down to idle if I am within 200′ – 300′ of fishermen, canoes and kayaks.
This rule is important, especially in Georgia where the compliance to the basic ICW standards are generally ignored by those responsible for their maintenance. At low tide, the controlled water depth for the ICW should be 12 feet minimum and the controlled width should be 150 feet minimum. Since much of the way at low tide is impassible for vessels drawing more than 3 or 4 feet at dead center channel and with the channel widths at mid-tide being less than 50 feet, it is beyond critical to slow to pass. Should
apply this rule to the ICW passages Florida (west coast), Georgia and New Jersey.
Bob & Kemba DeGroot
Thanks for asking the question. As you can see, some of us have some not-so-good experiences with impatient and/or ignorant passers. Here in Miami, sometimes I feel like holidays are like figure 8 racing. On the ICW, coming under the Richenbacher Causeway Bridge to enter Biscayne Bay, I was passed by a 60 to 70 ft. yacht with twin jets while still under the bridge. He throttled up about half way through the no-wake area of the underpass, and left the whole place in a huge turbulence of bubbles. It was all I could do with full throttle, full rudder and bow thruster to keep me off the bridge wall, coming within a foot or so. If he looked back, it was probably to laugh along with the rest of the party crowd on the huge rear sun deck. I’d love to find him aground someday. Anyway, I appreciate your respectful attitude, and hope you keep our stories in mind when your
blowing by us slowpokes.