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Boating Safety Tips

As recreational boating continues to grow in popularity, many waterways are being used by all types and sizes of boats. In addition, new types of powered and unpowered vessels are being introduced nearly every year. To get the most enjoyment from boating, you should operate courteously and share time and space on the waterways.

Sharing the Water With Non-Motorized Vessels

Non-motorized vessels include canoes, kayaks, rafts, row boats, and rowing shells. To share the waterways safely with these vessels, follow these rules.

Keep a careful watch.

Most non-motorized vessels sit low in the water. This makes them difficult to see. Be especially vigilant when the sun is near the horizon, at twilight, in foggy conditions, and when your bow is raised due to acceleration or speed.

Keep your distance when passing.

If you must pass close by, slow down. The wake from larger vessels can cause a non-motorized vessel to capsize.

Know that non-motorized vessels move slower.

These vessels may not be able to move fast enough to avoid the effect of a passing boat’s wake. Always give non-motorized vessels plenty of room and time to avoid your vessel and its wake.

Sharing the Water With Commercial Ships

Due to their size, commercial ships are allowed only in the deep-draft navigational channel. Consequently, these vessels always have the right-of-way. Their size also makes it difficult for them to slow down or maneuver quickly.

Recreational vessels and sailboarders can share the water safely with commercial ships by observing the following.

  • Boat on the starboard (right) side of the channel.
  • Be visible and vigilant.
    If it is dark or foggy, carry a radar reflector as high on the boat as possible. Make sure your navigation lights are bright and not obscured by anything.
  • Keep a close watch.
  • Monitor ship lights.
    Pay attention to the sidelights rather than the masthead lights. If you see both sidelights, you are dead ahead—move away fast!
  • Don’t pass too closely behind a tug.
    You may encounter tow cables and log rafts low in the water.
  • Know whistle signals.
    Five or more short blasts mean "DANGER." If the signal is for you, give way quickly.
  • Use safe anchorages, not buoys.
    It is illegal and unsafe to tie up to Coast Guard buoys.
  • Moor your boat correctly.
    Large vessel movements create a suction or undertow effect along the shore. Beach your boat as high as possible. Avoid mooring to pile dikes and jetties.
  • Steer clear of large vessels.
    Don't jump wakes, ride close alongside, or cut under bow or stern.
  • Know that a large vessel can "steal your wind."
    Don't expect to have the same wind you started with when sailing near a ship or tug. That includes sailboards also.
  • Beware when fishing.
    If you are fishing in the channel, you MUST move when a barge or large ship approaches. You will be cited for blocking the channel if you don't.
Never cross in front of a commercial vessel

Never cross in front of a commercial vessel.