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A montage shows various types of boats, water-skiiers, and personal watercraft navigating the lake.


All right. With all of these other boats out here, it can get really tricky. And add that to the fact that, well, these boats don’t have brakes like cars do, and there are no roads to follow. Well, it can get really hazardous in a hurry. Keeping a sharp lookout for other watercraft and operating at safe speeds are the two biggest ways to avoid being in a collision out here. Toss in some good seamanship and common sense, then all you need to follow are the rules of the waterways.


One of the most important things to know is the difference between a give-way vessel and a stand-on vessel. Here’s the deal.

On screen: STAND-ON VS. GIVE-WAY—Maneuvers are delayed for demonstration purposes only. When boating, always keep a safe distance from others and take action in ample time to avoid a collision.


The stand-on vessel is the one that must stand on, or maintain its course and speed, and the give-way vessel is the one that should give way by stopping, slowing down, or changing course. Figuring out which is which depends on how they’re approaching each other and how they’re propelled. Now, powerboats must give way to sailboats, and boats with more maneuverability must give way to boats with less maneuverability. Let’s try some scenarios and figure out what to do.

Scenario one: sailboat versus powerboat. Which is the give-way boat? Right off, we apply the rule that a power-driven boat is the give-way vessel and the sailboat, under sail that is, should stand on. But if the sailboat is under power, then it’s treated like any other power-driven boat. Which brings us to scenario two: powerboat versus powerboat, head-on. So which one is the give-way vessel? Actually, they’re both give-way vessels and should turn right to avoid each other. Just imagine meeting an oncoming car on a narrow, unmarked road, and steer to the right.


See how the rules of the road can keep you out of trouble? Let’s try another one.


Scenario three: powerboat versus powerboat, overtaking. Which boat should give way? In this situation, the overtaking boat is the give-way boat, and the boat being passed should stand on their course and speed. The give-way operator should choose the safest option to pass – either on the left or right. And the same rule applies for two sailboats in the same situation. That’s pretty easy, right? But what about this one?

Scenario four: powerboat versus personal watercraft, crossing paths. Which one is the give-way vessel? Since these are both power operated, the rule is that if the approaching boat is on your left, you should stand on. And if the approaching boat is on your right, you are the one that should give way. And if you ever encounter a barge or other boat that has restricted maneuverability, do yourself a favor and steer clear.


And remember, it’s every boater’s responsibility to avoid collisions.


Now you know some rules of the road, so use common sense and safe speed. Keep every one of your boating adventures ones you return from safely.

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