Sailors, myself included, are a pretty smug group.
In general, we have distain (ranging from slight to outright) towards our powerboater cousins, mostly because we sailing types tend to have a better understanding of the Rules of the Road, nautical traditions, and seamanship in general. Or so we tell ourselves. My experiences on this water this past week are challenging this assumption.
Last Wednesday, we decided to watch the fireworks from our boat, Wind Orchid. The fireworks show was based out of Herrington Harbor South marina in Herring Bay, near Rose Haven, MD.
Our plan was to sail (motor, actually) out of our marina in Deale, MD, anchor where we could see the fireworks, then wait for the power-boaters to clear the area and return to our slip.
Waiting for the power-boaters was predicated on the assumption that there would many of them, many would be inebriated, and none of them would be displaying proper lights or good seamanship.
There were many of them; perhaps 200. But after the fireworks ended, the powerboats — all displaying the proper lights as far as I could see — proceeded safely and soberly back to harbor.
The sailboats, on the other hand, were a different story. There were many sailboats as well, and though some displayed the proper lights, many did not.
We saw sailboats underway with anchor lights shining, sailboats underway without their white steaming lights on, and there was even one sailboat underway with no lights at all.
When I called out to one sailor that his steaming light was not on, he responded, “It’s not required by law!”
I guess technically there is no “law” but there are regulations governing the prevention of collisions at sea (known as the COLREGs) and they have strict rules about showing lights at night – including steaming lights when propelling a boat with an engine.
I thought all sailors knew that.