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When you travel on waterways with other vessels, you are at risk because paddlecraft are small and difficult to see. Do not assume that other operators see you. Your primary responsibility is to keep a sharp lookout and avoid a collision.

  • Always be sure other boaters are aware of your presence.
    • Use a whistle or other sound-producing device.
    • At night, also use a flashlight, lantern, or flare.
    • Note: In general, you should not be out at night in a paddlecraft. But if you must be out, take all necessary precautions.
  • Be considerate of other vessels. Operate in a manner that allows everyone to navigate safely.
  • Paddle as close to shore as is safe, and avoid channels used by larger craft.
    • It is illegal to interfere with the passage of large, deep-draft vessels that can navigate safely only in the deepest part of a channel.
    • When operating in a narrow channel, keep to the side of the channel on your starboard (right) side, whenever it is safe and practical to do so.
    • Look for markers and buoys that identify shipping channels. The U.S. Aids to Navigation System (ATONS) is explained later in this unit.
    • If traveling with a group of paddlecraft, cross any channels as a group at right angles.
  • Operate according to homeland security measures. Keep a safe distance from military and commercial ships, and observe all restrictions in security zones.
  • Tell other paddlers about any hazards, such as eddies or rapids, you have encountered.
  • Render assistance to other paddlers in need, unless you would place yourself or your paddlecraft in danger.
  • When a powerboat passes, turn the bow of your boat or nose of your paddleboard into the wake to help prevent a capsize.