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When is a Sailboat the Stand-on Vessel in Relations to a Recreational Power Boat

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

when is a sailboat the stand-on vessel in relations to a recreational power boat

A stand-on vessel maintains its speed and course as long as the give-way vessel doesn’t take any appropriate action. Which boat should stand on, and when is a sailboat the stand-on vessel in relations to a recreational power boat?

When one boat is overtaking another, the other becomes the stand-on vessel. This situation applies to the sailboat under sails as the stand-on vessel when a recreational power boat overtakes it.

It always follows that the overtaken vessel is the stand-on vessel even if it’s done by a powerboat. To learn about a stand-on vessel in an overtaking situation, continue reading.

How a Sailboat is a Stand-on Vessel With the Recreational Boat as a Give-way Vessel

1. Rules and signals for overtaking

Every recreational boat that is not over 4 feet is required to have a functioning signal device. It’s not only used for overtaking but when crossing as well, especially when there’s low visibility.

  • Overtaking – A vessel that has the intention to overtake is the give-way vessel. The other boat must give way to it so it’s called a stand-on vessel. In other words, this stand-on vessel allows overtaking action from the give-way vessel.

The stand-on vessel is expected to remain at the same speed and course. On the other hand, the give-way vessel should do the substantial move to avoid the former in advance just like the water-skiing safety practice.

Furthermore, the give-way vessel is usually the one that gives off the signal. For instance, one short blast is made when it wants to pass on the starboard side. As a sign of agreement, the stand-on vessel makes the same sound.

When the give-way vessel wants to pass on the port side, two short blasts are made. Again, the stand-on vessel releases the same signal to allow the action.

2. When sailboat and recreational boat power meet

When a sailboat is under the sails and meets a powered recreational boat that wants to overtake it, it becomes the stand-on vessel. There are other ways how these vessels meet which are explained below.

  • Head-on – It’s when both boats go from port to port. To reach an agreement, they have to make one, short blast.
  • Crossing – The recreational boat as the give-way vessel has the responsibility to execute substantial action in advance. Moreover, it makes proper adjustments on speed and course so it won’t cross in front of the sailboat or the stand-on vessel.

3. Sailboats and their rules of the paths


There are boating rules of the road for sailboats under sails to have the rights away when they meet each other. It’s a way to prevent an accident while boating. The windward side of a sailboat is the opposite of the side that carries the mainsail.

If the mainsail is on the starboard, it follows that the port side is on the windward. At times, the wind comes from the different sides of sailboats. In this situation, the give-way vessel has the wind on the port and the stand-on vessel has the wind on the starboard.

The give-way boat shall take action early to keep both of their routes clear. However, two sailboats can have wind from the same side. This is a bad sign as this poses the risk of collision which is the major cause of fatalities involving small boats.

To prevent this from happening, the windward vessel should know how to give way. Still, the execution of substantial movements should be done by the sailboat that has the wind on the port side.

It should be practiced particularly when it can’t point out the side where the wind is coming from the stand-on vessel.

4. The boat operator should watch out for danger


Although there are things expected from stand-on and give-way vessels, it’s the primary responsibility of the vessel operator to watch out for danger. A lookout on a vessel is required to prevent collisions and accidents.

Aside from maintaining the safe speed all the time, the operator of the stand-on vessel should have the initiative to avoid apparent danger like when a vessel capsizes. Some operators are negligent so you have to be better than them.

Aside from doing good deeds like assisting boats in distress, you have to be conscious of the well-being and safety of those around you, even the animals that you come across. You shouldn’t make too much noise to distress them.


What determines a stand-on vessel?

A red light that crosses from right to left determines a stand-on vessel. You can see it when this vessel is in front of you. The light signal which is the green light that blinks from left to right is easy to spot.

Is a sailing vessel a power-driven vessel?

A sailing vessel is a vessel that is sailed, and its propelling machinery is not in use. Meanwhile, a power-driven vessel is run by machinery and not manual sailing. So, two things are not the same.

What should a powerboat do when about to cross paths with a sailboat?

When a sailboat is approaching a powerboat as they’re about to cross paths, it’s the responsibility of the latter to avoid a collision because it’s the give-way vessel. Hence, the give-way vessel needs to change speed and course as both stated in international and inland navigation rules.


So when is a sailboat the stand-on vessel in relations to a recreational power boat? Generally, it occurs when an engine-powered recreational boat overtakes. As a stand-on vessel, a sailboat is privileged since it can stay at a similar speed and course.

The responsibilities of a recreational boat as a give-way vessel are moving around the stand-on vessel carefully and safely. This vessel also needs to give a signal so the stand-on vessel knows its intentions. Either way, both vessels can disregard the conventional expectations when there are boating emergency causes.

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