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

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

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

Traffic rules and regulations are important for keeping vehicles orderly while on the road. The same applies to boats on the water, and Right of Way rules help keep waterways and boating channels safe. That’s why it’s essential to familiarize ourselves with key points that involve stand-on vessels and give-way vessels.

In this article, we’ll close in on a specific topic related to boating right of way, focusing on sailboats. So, when is a sailboat the stand-on vessel in relations to a recreational power boat?

A quick answer is, a sailboat is a stand-on vessel in most situations except for a few such as when the boat is overtaking or if the powerboat is restricted.

Keep reading to find the detailed answer.

Boating Right of Way


There are boating rules that govern boats’ actions while on the water, and these help keep waterways free from accidents. We need to be aware of these rules, especially if we are helming a boat ourselves. Regardless of type or size, watercraft are all subject to these rules for everyone’s safety.

While there is no officially recognized “right of way” for vessels on the water, the closest we have is the give-way and stand-on designation. They let us determine which party is given priority to stay their course. These terms serve to identify boats in different situations when meeting on the water. They allow us to take appropriate action to avoid any boating mishaps.

  • Give-Way Vessel

The boat deemed responsible to give way to the other boat is called the give-way vessel. Being the give-way vessel means it is your responsibility to avoid the other boat to ensure no collision occurs and signal the other party of your intentions.

  • Stand-on Vessel

While the give-way vessel is responsible for avoiding the other boat, this other boat’s responsibility is to maintain its course and speed; this is the stand-on vessel. It is also the stand-on vessel’s responsibility to look out for the give-way vessel’s actions and signals and respond to them as the situation dictates.

Determining Give-way and Stand-on Vessels


Determining between these two will allow us to act correctly in any situation. Therefore, it is important always to keep an eye and ear out for other vessels when we’re out on the water. Detecting other vessels early will allow us ample time to recognize each situation and react appropriately.

Looking at a boat’s propulsion makes it easier for us to determine which boat is which.

There are two common types of boats based on their propulsion; sailing vessels and power-driven vessels. Boats having similar propulsion makes this more complicated and is a discussion we’ll save for another time.

  • A power-driven vessel makes use of any type of machinery for propulsion.
  • A sailing vessel makes use of wind and sail.

Certain sailboats use both a sail and an engine. Still, any sailboat using its engine is considered a power-driven vessel at that given moment. Determining propulsion is important because, for most situations, the sailing vessel is given priority when the other vessel is a power-driven one.

The Sailing Vessel as a Stand-on Vessel

When a sailboat meets a power-driven boat such as a recreational powerboat, the sailboat is the stand-on vessel in most situations. This is because the boat using an engine is more capable of making the necessary adjustment to ensure that no collision occurs.

Even when a sailboat is approaching a powerboat, the sailboat will still serve as a stand-on vessel because of its limited maneuverability.

Let’s consider another situation where a powerboat is about to cross paths with a sailboat under sail. What should the powerboat do? In such a situation, the powerboat is the give-way vessel and must adjust its course and speed to allow the sailboat passage.

The Sailing Vessel as a Give-way Vessel

Sailboats are usually stand-on vessel when meeting a recreational powerboat or any power-driven vessel, but there are exceptions.

When a sailboat overtakes a powerboat which vessel is the stand on the vessel? In such a situation, the overtaking vessel is always the give-way vessel regardless of its propulsion type.

Another situation where a sailing vessel is a give-way vessel when meeting a power-driven vessel is when the motorized boat is limited in its ability to maneuver or is not under command. This is the situation where the sailboat needs to react and adjust accordingly to avoid any untoward incident.

Other situations where a sailing vessel is a give-way vessel include but are not limited to when the other boat is restricted in its visibility, and when a vessel is engaged in fishing. Remember that it takes longer for sailboats to adjust their speed and course than boats using an engine.


The boating rules relating to stand-on and give-way vessels are important for every boater to know. We need to learn many things, but now that you know ‘when is a sailboat the stand-on vessel in relation to a recreational power boat?’, that’s one thing to strike off the list. Just make sure to keep learning more to keep ourselves and others safe.

If you have any comments or suggestions about boating right of way or any related topics, please leave them below. We’re eager to hear from you.

Remember to boat safely.

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