The captain of a tanker saw a light dead ahead. He directed his signalman to flash a signal to the light which read.... "Change course 10 degrees South."
A reply was quickly flashed back..."You change course 10 degrees North."
The captain was somewhat annoyed and sent another message....."I am a captain. Change course 10 degrees South."
Back came the reply...."I am an able-seaman. Change course 10 degrees North."
By now the captain was outraged and flashed the message...."I am a 240,000 ton tanker. CHANGE course 10 degrees South!"
Back came the reply......."I am a LIGHTHOUSE. Change course 10 degrees North!!!!"
I tell this story to remind you (since boating season is on the horizon), that the use of radar, GPS and/or Loran, chartplotters, etc. are not always failsafe navigational tools. The most important aid to safe navigation is the omni-present lookout who is keeping a 360-degree view of your surroundings. Although radar will (hopefully) let you know that an object is ahead of you, it then becomes your job to identify the object, determine it's course, speed (if any) and intentions and establish the proper maneuver for avoidance and passing. If you are at all unsure or confused about the other vessel's intentions, the best course of action is to call them on the VHF radio. Commercial vessels typically monitor Channels 19, 12 and 13. If your paths look like they might intersect near an inlet, ascertain whether the oncoming vessel is intending to enter the inlet. You must calculate your course accordingly, especially if the oncoming vessel is a tanker or tug with a barge atow. The latter vessels need a lot of room and they are much bigger than you are. So, even if you have the right of way, let them go where they want to go. If you plan an (evasive) course change, do it early and on a sharp angle. That gives the oncoming vessel a clear idea of your intentions. Once you make contact with the oncoming vessel, remain on the proper VHF channel in case the skipper wants to communicate any sudden changes in plans. Remember, you are not completely out of harm's way until the oncoming vessel is entirely astern of your boat. Also, don't get so engrossed in the movements of one specific boat that you lose sight of all other boat traffic.