The Navigation Rules. They are the rules of the road for the water. It seems daunting at first, but it can be broken down into parts and easily digested over time. We spent several weeks just on The Navigation Rules as part of a captain’s license course I took.
The Navigation Rules are divided into International and Inland waters. The rules are more or less the same for both, but there are subtle differences. Even though the Puget Sound is East of the inland waters demarcation line between Port Angeles, WA and Victoria BC, the Puget Sound follows the International Rules, or COLREGS.
With regards to who has the right of way, Rule 18 essentially establishes a hierarchy among vessels.
It’s a little convoluted the way it’s written, but it can easily be remembered with this saying (with the exceptions of Rules 9, 10, and 13 which will be described below):
“Only New Reels Catch Fish So Purchase Some Worms”
Or, written out below…