The rule of the road told in verses

SS Metapan sunk by the SS Iowan

SS Metapan sunk by a collision withthe SS Iowan; image from Popular Mechanics magazine published in 1915. Image placed on the Wikimedia by Pmcyclist


I found the following useful navigation rhymes in a book that Mike Smylie was kind enough to give me at the weekend – it previously belonged to his father. I’ve heard them before, notably from old Sam Larner, but haven’t seen them printed out. And as a bonus they came with some extra verses relating to sailing vessels.

The book is titled The Yachtsman’s Week End Book, written by John Irving and Douglas Service, and I think it’s a gem because of the way it opens a window into the different attitudes of the past. For example I particularly liked this quotation: ‘Four things shalt thou not see aboard a yacht for its comfort – a cow, a wheelbarrow, and umbrella and a naval officer.’

But back to the rhymes – they may be wrong in the current age, so please don’t take them as gospel. I can’t accept responsibility if you do!

Two steamships meeting:

When both lights you see ahead

Starboard wheel and show your red

Two steamships passing:

Green to green or red to red

Perfect safety, go ahead

Two steamships crossing:

If to your starboard red appear

It is your duty to keep clear

To act as judgement says is proper

To port or starboard, back or stop her

But when upon your port is seen

A steamer’s starboard light of green

There’s not much for you to do

For green to port keeps clear of you

However, all ships must keep a look-out and steamships must stop and go astern if necessary:

Both in safety and in doubt

Always keep a good look-out

In danger with no room to turn

Ease her, stop her, go astern

But these rules don’t work so well for sailing vessels. Instead, the following rhyme is proposed:

Now those four rules we all must note

Are no use in a sailing boat

As we’re dependent on the wind

Another set of rules we find

A close-hauled ship you’ll never see

Give way to one that’s running free

It’s easier running free to steer

And that’s the reason she keeps clear

With the wind the same side, running free

One’s to windward, one to lee

The leeward ship goes straight ahead

The other alters course instead

Both close-hauled or both quite free

On different tacks we all agree

The ship that has the wind to port

Must keep well clear, is what we’re taught

At other times the altering craft

Is the one that has the wind right aft


Good Wood Boat clinker built dinghies at this year’s Beale Park Boat Show

Good Wood Boat Redwing

Good Wood Boat Tideway Good Wood Boat stripping varnish

Good Wood Boat will be showing two clinker built dinghies – a new National Redwing and a restored Tideway – at the 2011 Beale Park Boat Show.

Redwing R249 designed by Uffa Fox in 1938 was built by Good Wood Boat in 2009, and won the 2010 RYA Volvo Dinghy Show London ‘Concours d’Elegance’ trophy. She is being offered for sale at the show.

She was recently prepared for and exhibited at the 2011 RYA Volvo Dinghy Show in London and with her brand new, unused sails, she is in pristine condition and can be considered ‘as new’. She is offered for sale at an ex-demonstrator price of £14995 –  is £3000 less than the price of a new Good Wood Boat Redwing of this specification.

The boat is ready to race, and comes complete with measurement certificate, trapeze and buoyancy bags, and of course is race-measured.

Tideway TW233 recently restored by Good Wood Boat will also be on show to promote the company’s traditional wooden boat repair, restoration and refinishing services, which now include a clinker boat varnish stripping service.

Good Wood Boat Co is also licensed to build new wooden Tideway clinker dinghies.

Stephen Beresford of Good Wood Boat can bbe contacted at tel 07934 622013 and email

Nick Smith at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show


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A few more photos from this year’s Beale Park Thames Boat Show this year – this time showing some more photos of traditional boatbuilder Nick Smith’s motor launch build from earlier this year, Lisa, and a favourite I’ve seen him show several times, the small launch Bumble.

For more posts relating to the show click here; for more relating to the traditional West Country style boats that Nick builds including many shots of the building process with comments from the master himself, click here.


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Nick comes from Devon, learned boatbuilding the traditional way and specialises in new builds in clinker and carvel for sail, motor and rowing power from 8ft to 28ft with a special emphasis on West Country style and design, and also takes on repairs and refits from 25ft to 50ft. These days he’s based in Hampshire, and can be contacted by email at and by phone on phone on 07786 693370.

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