This article is an excerpt from NauticEd’s online FREE Navigation Rules Course, an interactive online sailing course for ALL sailors to learn Navigation Rules and become a safer sailor. Or if you want to learn more, upgrade to the Skipper Course Bundle to become a competent sailor!

You can learn to sail and improve your sailing with NauticEd, the international leader in sailing education.

Crossing Situations Nav Rules

The Rule

15 (a) When two power-driven vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision, the vessel which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way and shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel.


There is an easy way to remember this.

First, repeat this mantra to yourself which for most of us is easy to remember referring to red port wine.

“Is there any RED PORT LEFT?”

It means that the left side of your boat is the port side and the light color on it is red.

Knowing that red lights on boats are positioned on the port side of the vessel and green lights are positioned on the starboard side of the vessel, an easy way to remember this crossing rule is that the vessel is required per this rule to stay clear of the other will see the red light side of the other vessel. In our normal everyday driving situations, a red light means stop and a green light means go. Thus, the vessel seeing the green light side of the other vessel is the Stand-On vessel. The vessel seeing the red light is the Give-Way vessel.

Note this says power-driven vessels so it does not apply to sailboats under sail with engines off. Also, note – you can’t try to be tricky and turn your engines off. The rule says “… as to involve the risk of collision”. You entered the involving situation under power so the power-driven rule applies to you at the onset.

In this case, the sailboat is a power-driven vessel. It is in a crossing situation with another power-driven vessel. The sailboat will see the red light side of the powerboat and so here the sailboat must keep clear of the powerboat and it should avoid crossing in front of the powerboat. Discretion is left to the giveway skipper as to which way to turn to best avoid a close-quarters situation.

powerboats crossing

Learn Navigation Rules for Free...

A FREE 3-hour course that teaches how to stay safe, avoid collisions and accidents, and learn the “Rules of the Road”. The free Navigation Rules Course is for ALL sailors, whether you’re just learning or need a FREE refresher. Or, consider upgrading to the Skipper Course Bundle to become a fully competent skipper!

Source: Navigation Rules
Topic: Rules of the Nautical Road
Authors: Grant Headifen, NauticEd Global Director of Education
NauticEd is a fully recognized education and certification platform for sailing students combining online and on-the-water real instruction (and now VR). NauticEd offers +24 online courses, a free sailor's toolkit that includes 2 free courses, and six ranks of certification – all integrated into NauticEd’s proprietary platform. The USCG and NASBLA recognize NauticEd as having met the established American National Standards.