Chapter 6: Enjoying Water Sports With Your Boat
Responsibilities of a Vessel Operator
Powerboats, sailboats, and personal watercraft (PWCs) offer many opportunities for their operators to enjoy the waters. Along with the enjoyment comes responsibilities—both to the passengers and to others who share the public waterways.
Sharing the fun of your vessel with your friends and family is all part of the boating experience. When you are operating a vessel, you have a responsibility to your passengers. You also are responsible when you let someone else drive your vessel. As the owner, you could be held liable for any damage caused by it, no matter who is driving at the time.
Responsibility to Your Passengers
As the operator of a vessel, you are responsible for ensuring that your passengers understand basic safety practices and laws.
- Use a pre-departure checklist to make sure you've taken the necessary safety precautions.
- Before departing, have a safety discussion with everyone on board. Some of the things you should point out are:
- Conduct emergency drills with your passengers so that everyone knows what to do in case of a boating emergency.
Another way you can assure a good time while operating your vessel is to perform a pre-departure check.
Responsibility to Others You Allow
To Operate Your Vessel
You always should make sure that anyone operating your vessel understands his or her responsibilities as a driver and knows how to operate safely and responsibly.
Before allowing others to operate your vessel:
Before allowing others to drive your personal watercraft (PWC):
- Check that they meet the minimum age and boater education requirements for PWCs.
- Tell them that they have the same responsibilities as other vessel operators.
- If they are new to PWCs, have them practice in an uncrowded area first. While near shore, show how to start and reboard the PWC properly.
- Be sure to explain how to steer and control the PWC. Remind them to keep plenty of distance from other vessels and that power is required for steering control!
- Point out that it is easy to have so much fun that you forget to watch where you are going. Tell them to make sure the area is clear before making a turn.
Responsibility to the Environment
While the effect of a single vessel on our rivers, lakes, and coastal waters may seem insignificant, multiply that impact by the millions of vessels on the waterways today. To preserve and protect the waters, wildlife, and aquatic vegetation enjoyed while boating, each person must be responsible.
Keep waterways clean and disease-free by disposing of waste properly.
- If your vessel is equipped with an installed toilet (marine sanitation
device), make sure no sewage is discharged into the water. Empty the
holding tanks only into pump-out stations. Chapter
4 has the legal requirements for your state.
- Don't throw any litter overboard. Bring all trash back on shore to dispose of properly. Be sure to retrieve anything that blows overboard– Over the side or out of the vessel.
- Fishing lines and plastics are deadly for fish and fowl and should never be discarded in the water or near shore.
- Plastic six-pack holders can trap or strangle birds, fish, and other wildlife. Always properly dispose of these on land by snipping each circle of the holders with scissors.
- Remember, if you have room to take it, you have room to bring it back!
Pump-out Station Sign
Empty your holding tanks only into pump-out stations.
Did You Know?
Here are some common ways that boaters harm the environment.
- If you simply toss your trash into the water, it will be around for years. Here's the time it takes for some common items to decompose.
- Paper takes 2-4 weeks. Wax-coated paper, such as a fast food wrapper or cup, takes much longer.
- Tin cans take 100 years.
- Aluminum cans take 200-500 years.
- Plastic six-pack rings or any other plastic takes 450 years.
- Glass bottles take more than 500 years.
- Small amounts of petroleum products spilled in the water can have a large impact.
- One gallon of gasoline can contaminate 750 gallons of drinking water.
- One single quart of oil when spilled can create an oil slick as large as three football fields and remain in the area for up to two years.
Protect the shoreline from erosion, and preserve aquatic vegetation.
- Reduce throttle to "no wake" speed when close to a shoreline or in small rivers to help prevent erosion.
- Don't operate in shallow water where your prop or pump intake can stir up bottom sediments and destroy aquatic plants.
- Drain the bilge and clean the prop before leaving a waterway. Failure to do so may transport plants or animals from one waterway to another and disrupt the natural balance of the environment.
Avoid using toxic substances on your vessel or around the water.
- Reduce the amount of detergent you use when cleaning your vessel. Use non-phosphate products, such as hydrogen peroxide, on your vessel. Don't use toxic cleaners.
- Don't use toxic paints or other toxic products on your vessel. If you must use chemical products on your vessel, minimize their use while on the water.
- Before the first use of your vessel in the spring, drain the antifreeze into a container and properly dispose of it on shore. Never use antifreeze containing ethylene glycol.
- When fueling, don't top off the tank. Promptly mop up any fuel spills.
Responsibility to Others Using the Waterways
As a vessel operator, you are just one of many who are enjoying the privilege of using the public waterways. It is your responsibility to stay aware of others in or on the water and to respect their use of the waterways. Remember that being a responsible operator includes controlling the noise of your boat or PWC.