Compiled by David Manthey from the New York State laws as published in Marine and Recreational Vehicles Law of the State of New York by Looseleaf Law Publications, Inc.

This list was compiled in 2003. No guarantee is made of its accuracy or completeness.

Maritime Laws

This is a list of all the maritime laws which affect the bateau. The bateau is either a rowboat (when not sailing), or a sailboat (when sailing only), or a sailboat with auxiliary power provided by oars. Since we don’t have any mechancial propulsion, a great many laws do not apply to us. I have catorgized the laws as follows: Rowing: applies to us always. Sailing: applies to us only when under sail. Only rowing: only applies to us when rowing and not sailing. Not required: of interest, but we don’t have to follow the law.

Law Section Comments
Legal Category
Rowing Chapter 37 does not apply to canoes or rowboats unless expressly provided. Chap 37, §2, ¶6c I believe that we are officially a rowboat unless we have the sail up. If I’m mistaken, then we have to follow all of the sailing laws at all times (which we do anyway).
Sailing We are a “Pleasure Vessel” of “Open Construction”. Chap. 37, §2, ¶6c and ¶26 Only when under sail.
Rowing For purposes of lighting, we are either a Class 1 vessel (if a sailboat), or a Class 5 vessel (if a rowboat). Chap. 37, §43, ¶1 The easiest way to comply with the lighting law is to not sail in the dark.
Safety Devices
Rowing Every pleasure vessel and every rowboat shall have at least one wearable personal flotation device for each person on board. Chap. 37, §40, ¶1a This means a Type I, II, III, or V flotation device. At the time of this writing, the bateau was supplied with 8 type II PFDs.
Rowing No owner owner or operator of a pleasure vessel less than twnety-one feet, including rowboats, shall permit its operation, between November first and May first, unless each person is wearing a flotation device when such vessel is underway. Chap. 37, §40, ¶1e This doesn’t actually apply, as the bateaux are 23 feet long, but I have been asked about this law, so am including it for completeness.
Rowing Everyone under the age of 12 must wear a flotation device unless in a fully enclosed cabin. Chap. 37, §40, ¶1d
Rowing The operator of the vessel is responsible for having the floatation devices aboard. Chap. 37, §40, ¶1c This means the current master (also called the coxswain or captain).
Sailing Pleasure vessels sixteen feet and greater in length shall carry at least one type IV throwable personal flotation device. Chap. 37, §40, ¶1b We have one on the bateau.
Sailing We must carry a whistle or other non-siren noise-making device that can be heard from half a mile in calm weather and can make a 2 second blast. Mouth whistles are allowed. Chap. 37, §40, ¶2 The tin horn qualifies.
Sailing An anchor is required. Chap. 37, §40, ¶3 We have one.
Rowing We can be fined from $25 to $100 for violations in Chap. 37, §40. Chap. 37, §40, ¶10
Rowing None of Chap. 37, §40 applies if we are in a regatta. Chap. 37, §40, ¶11
Only rowing We need a white light to be shown in time to avoid collision. Chap. 37, §43, ¶2d
Sailing We must have (a) a bright white light aft showing on all sides, (b) a combination lantern showing green (starboard) and red (port) from front to two points abaft the beam. When under sail alone, light (a) isn’t shown, and instead a flashlight is kept handy. Chap. 37, §43, ¶2a and ¶2e A lantern can be used in lieu of a flashlight.
Rules of the Road
Not required Whistle signals:
1 whistle blast: “I direct my course to starboard”, or, if approaching obliquely, the starboard vessel will hold its course.
2 whistle blasts: “I direct my course to port”
3 whistle blasts: “I’m going full speed astern”
4 whistle blasts: “I am in distress and require assistance”
5 whistle blasts (or more): danger

If answering, the answer must be the same as the request.

In fog, sound long blasts on the whistle at least every minute.When possible, pass oncoming boats with port sides facing each other (drive on the right). Sound one blast to signal this. If you can’t do so, sound 2 blasts and pass on the other side.

When approaching obliquely, the vessel most to starboard has the right of way.

When overtaking and passing on the starboard side of the slower vessel, sound one blast; when passing on the port side, sound two blasts. If being overtaken, either acknowledge, or sound five or more blasts to indicate that the other boat should not pass.

Chap. 37, §41 I have never witnessed a non-commercial vessel abiding by these rules. It vexes me that even the law-enforcement boats don’t signal properly. On the other hand, every commerical tugboat, barge, and ship I have encountered has followed this law.Also note that three blasts on the whistle is used near locks to request passage.

The whistle signals are designed so that one doesn’t actually need to determine if another vessel’s bow or stern is toward you, nor if it is making headway or sternway.

There are many other sensible provisions in the pilot rules (§41). I recommend reading this section in its entirety for anyone who will be the master of any vessel, no matter how small or large.

Sailing When a mechanically propelled vessel meets a sailing vessel, the sailing vessel has the right of way (but should still try to obey the ordinary rules). Chap. 37, §41, ¶2f
Sailing When possible stay on the starboard side of the navigation cannel. Chap. 37, §41, ¶2g
Sailing When possible, it is the master’s duty to aid other vessels in distress. Chap. 37, §41, ¶3
Sailing If following the rules would result in a collision or wreck, do what is necessary to be safe. Chap. 37, §41, ¶4
Sailing Navigation must be conducted reasonably and prudently, so as not to obstruct channels, get within 100 feet of a boat with a diver, nor go more than 5 mph within 100 feet of a shore, dock, pier, rack, float, or anchored or moored vessel, unless racing or waterskiing. Chap. 37, §45
Rowing When involved in an accident involving more than $500 of damage or killing, injuring, or causing someone to disappear, the nearest law enforcement agency must be notified. Chap. 37, §47
Rowing Tolls can be charged to any vessel propelled in whole or in part by mechanical power. Chap. 5, §102 Because we don’t have a motor, we are allowed to go through the locks for free.
Rowing It is illegal to dispose of refuse into the canal, whether from shore, float, or anything else. Chap. 5, §81 No littering.
Rowing No person shall cast any dead animal into the navigational waters of the state, except as may be authorized by the state department of health. Chap. 37, §33 I just found this law amusing.
Rowing Boat owners are permitted to use state drydocks to make emergency repairs. Chap. 5, §10, ¶14 I can’t imagine when this would be useful to us.
Rowing Operation of a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs Chap. 37, §49 The first definition in this section makes it clear that since we don’t have a motor we are not officially a vessel under this law. Hence, it would appear that we are allowed to boat while intoxicated, provided we aren’t breaking any other alcohol related rules. I can’t say I recommend it, though.
Rowing Every vessel less than 26 ft in length designed to carry two or more persons and be propelled by machinery or oars as its principal source of power, shall have permanently affixed a capacity plate stating: (a) The total weight of persons, gear, and other articles which the vessel is capable of carrying, (b) the recommended number of persons, assuming that persons weigh at least 150 pounds, (c) clear notice that the information on the capacity plate is applicable under normal conditions. Chap. 37, §71-c, ¶1 and ¶2 We don’t currently comply with this law, unless the builder notified ‘the department’ (see next entry).
Rowing If any vessel required by this section to have a capacity plate is of such a design to make it undesirable to affix such a plate, may tell the department in writing. Chap. 37, §71-c, ¶6 It is not clear who the department is.

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