| Friday, June 20, 2014 |
rules are the equivalent of the rules of the road for mariners. The
navigational system used on U.S. waterways was created by and is maintained by
the Coast Guard.
boaters are encouraged to take a boating safety course to get a full
understanding of the navigational rules and the aids to navigation (the “road
signs” of the water). The USCG provides a small booklet, U.S. Aids to Navigation System: What You Need to Know about Markers on
Water, for recreational boaters to use a quick reference guide.
The Basics of USCG
While not comprehensive
in scope, the USCG booklet touches on some of the most important topics and
commonly asked questions about navigating on the water. “The Rules of the Road
define the roles and responsibilities of vessel operators. If operators obeyed
these rules, most accidents could be avoided,” the booklet prefaces.
The first three rules covered in the
booklet help reduce the risk of collision:
- Lookout – each vessel should have a
designated person as a lookout (for hazards, other vessels, objects,
weather) at all times.
- Speed – vessel operators are responsible
for using their best judgment as to what constitutes a safe speed. They
must take visibility, traffic, weather, and their boat’s maneuvering
ability into consideration and proceed with caution.
- Giving way – when nearing another vessel,
vessel operators are expected to understand when to give way (yield) and
when to stand on (maintain course and speed). A few examples of right of
way navigation rules are covered in the next section.
Navigational Rules for
Passing Other Vessels
properly pass or overtake another vessel is one of the key areas of discussion
in the navigation rules of the road.
Here are three common situations
vessel owners should fully understand how to handle:
- Overtaking – when you want to pass another
boat traveling in the same direction, you may pass on either side,
provided you give adequate sounding alarms. If you want to pass portside,
you sound your horn twice, and await the other vessel to respond in kind.
To pass starboard, sound once and await the other vessel to respond in
- Port to port
passing – if
you’re coming head-on with another vessel, port to port passing is
preferred. Sound your horn once to
make your intent clear. The other vessel should respond in kind.
- Starboard to
starboard passing –
starboard passing in a head-on situation is allowed when necessary. To
signal your intent, sound your horn twice. Again, the other vessel should
respond in kind.
Get a Better
Understanding of the Rules of the Road
several guides available online and on the market for understanding the
nautical rules of the road. Take the time to become familiar with all the rules
by which you’re expected to abide for your and your passengers’ safety, as well
as the safety of others on the water.
version of the navigational rules is detailed in the USCG instruction
U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Rules, International & Inland (USCG
COMDTINST M16672.2D). You can also stay current on topics of interest to
boaters by perusing the Marine Education Textbooks blog, which is updated regularly with interesting
articles pertaining to the maritime industry.