Don Dykstra respondsJan 1, 2003
My article was meant as a warning to those mariners who believe we live in a perfect world where everybody follows the rules, and also as a reaction to those small boat navigators who always blame the big guys for their mishaps. To make a comparison with everyday life, most drivers try to follow traffic laws, but may wind up in an accident anyway without fault of their own. The gist of my piece was that the COLREGS were designed in a different age when commercial ships were small and slow and recreational sailors were a rarity. Even though the Rules have been adjusted from time to time, they don't cover every situation.
The best advice I can give people is to take COLREGS Rule no. 2 to heart: "(a) Nothing in these rules shall exonerate any vessel, or the owners, master or crew thereof, from the consequences of any neglect to comply with these Rules or of the neglect of any which may be required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case. (b) In construing and complying with these Rules, due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation, and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from these rules necessary to avoid immediate danger."
In other words, just being within the law is not enough, you are obliged to use common sense, in the form of good seamanship, as well.