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Underway, or Under Way is a nautical term describing the state of a vessel. A vessel is said to be underway if it meets the following criteria:

  • It is not aground
  • It is not at anchor
  • It has not been made fast to a dock, the shore, or other stationary object.

If a vessel is adrift and not being propelled by any instrument or device, it is said to be underway, not making way. The concept of whether a vessel is or is not underway has important legal ramifications. For example, in many jurisdictions a child must be wearing a personal flotation device at the time the vessel is underway.


  • "Maloney, Elbert S. Chapman Piloting And Seamanship. 65th Ed. New York: Hearst Books, 2006."