Rules Of The Road

June 05, 2022

The boating season is in full swing, so I have another batch of new boating and towing stories to share. Most of them involve heinous infractions of Maryland boating laws. No matter how long you have been boating, you are not a safe boater unless you know, and are able to follow, the “rules of the road.”

Just last week, I witnessed the annual battle of “who has the right of way.” Neither boat operator was correct in their reactions and the typical VHF name calling resulted.

Be prepared to encounter multiple right of way scenarios some of the most common ones include the following:

  • In a situation with two boats coming head on, both vessels should pass each other port to port so the intentions of both captains are clear, and a collision is avoided.
  • A boat under sail that is not running an engine always has the right-of-way over a powerboat. However, human powered vessels like kayaks and canoes have the right-of-way over any other vessel including a sailboat.
  • The first job of any captain is to avoid a collision regardless of who has the right-of-way so when in doubt, just slow down and let the other pass.

In Maryland, if you were born after July 1, 1972, you are required to have completed the Maryland Boater Education Course. I highly recommend taking the state approved, free course from the BoatUS Foundation even if you are an “Old Salt.” A refresher is never a bad idea when someone’s life depends on your judgment.

Explore more about proper procedural standards at and enjoy your time boating responsibly. Also, call any one of the local TowBoatUS operators for local knowledge if you are boating in a new-to-you area. As always, happy to help.