Don't Be A Boating Jerk

10: Ramp Manners

Etiquette begins even before you put your boat in the water. Don’t be a ramp hog. Prepare your boat in the parking area away from the ramp. Then, when it’s ready and it’s your turn, back down, unload your boat and move your car away from the ramp to make room for others.


9: Getting Started

If you’re getting underway from a pier, or if you’re coming out of a cove, wait until the main channel is clear of other traffic, then proceed with care.


 Remember when crossing the path of another boat, that the boat on the right has the right of way. Slow down to allow plenty of room, or alter your course, cut right and go behind the other boat.


 There’s plenty of space on the lake, so leave plenty of that space between your boat and kayaks, canoes, rowboats, sailboats, fishermen, or swimmers. Swimmers can be very difficult to see, so keep your eyes open. And if you have people swimming from your boat, keep them close so they’ll be more visible to other boaters.


 Remember too, whle it might seem harmless to you, your wake can be dangerous to these people. And legally, you can be held liable for any injuries or damage caused by your wake. Really.


8: Skiing & Wakeboarding

If you have a skier in front of you, don’t follow too closely, especially in narrow areas. If the skier should fall (as they often do), keeping your distance will help ensure that you have sufficient time to react and maneuver safely out of the way.


 If someone is tubing behind your boat, you’ll need to weave a bit from one side to the other to help make the tube swing. But do it cautiously and predictably. While experienced boaters will understand what you’re doing, novices can be confused.


7: Pardon My Jet Ski

Basically, personal watercraft (PWCs) or jet skis are aquatic motorcycles. And, like motorcycles, they move fast and are sometimes hard to see. If you’re operating a boat, keep a weather eye out for these smaller craft.


 As a jet ski rider, it may seem that getting close to another boat and jumping its wake at 60-miles-an-hour would be a great thrill, it can also be dangerous. Your intrepid correspondent knows this first-hand, having lost teeth and broken ribs in the attempt.


 Actually, I was merely a passenger, sitting behind the person attempting the great wake jump. Those ten exhilarating seconds weren’t worth the injuries. Jet skis can be a lot of fun, but they can also be dangerous if you’re not using common sense.



6: Night Moves

Expect to encounter boats with no lights or improperly placed red and green lights – because you will. Be extra careful and keep your distance so you’ll have time to react to whatever they’re doing.


 Don’t cruise down the lake with your docking lights on. This is akin to driving down the highway with your high beams on. It blinds other boaters, is annoying, and can even be dangerous.


 Don’t be an alcohol-impaired boater. If .08 is the maximum to ensure you can safely operate your car, the same is probably true with your boat. This is especially so at night when visibility is more difficult. If you plan on doing some drinking, have a designated driver with you. And remember: There are cops on the water, too. The same police who don’t like drinking while boating, also aren’t fond of boats without lights. They will give you a ticket. It’s a good idea to carry spare bulbs, just in case.


5: Radio Waves

If you enjoy cranking up the music while boating or wakeboarding, remember that you’re sharing the water with other people, who (a) might enjoy peace and quiet, or (b) might really hate your taste in music. You’ve undoubtedly noticed that the quality of the music always seems to be in an inverse ratio to the volume. Sound travels farther on water than on land, so be courteous. We share the lake.


 Speaking of radio, Channel 16 on VHF and digital Channel 70 are reserved for monitoring and for use by emergency responders. Don’t use these channels for chit chat. Switch to another channel for your personal conversations.


4: Anchors Aweigh

 Always drop your anchor far away enough from other anchored boats to ensure the lines don’t get crossed. And always anchor upwind since your boat will swing windward while anchored.


Use common courtesy while anchored near other boats. No matter how friendly and just too cool you think you are, they might want a little privacy. And keep your radio turned down. You don’t want your Bob Marley to drown out their Bach.


And remember to turn on your anchor light so other boaters will know you’re parked.



3: Be an Artful Docker

 When docking, go slowly and maintain total control of your boat. If you feel uncomfortable about your approach, there’s no shame in backing up and trying again.

If you’re on the dock and the driver of a boat throws you a line, help him out. Grab the rope and tie it around a cleat. Don’t try to pull the boat in. That’s his job.


2: Don’t be a Wakeboarding Menace

 Wakeboarding is a real rush. But it can also be very destructive. The industrial strength wake created by your boat can be very dangerous to people in kayaks, canoes, rowboats, or sailboats. Also to fishermen, and especially to swimmers. Always do you wakeboarding in open water, away from other boats, and far from the shore.


Fast moving water is very destructive, and the wake from your boat is like a mini tsunami. When it hits the shore it can cause significant damage to docks, docked boats and even the shoreline itself. Irresponsible wakeboarders have caused thousands of dollars in damage to the property of people who live on the lakes. Don’t let your good time be someone else’s insurance claim.


Have fun, but be responsible and respectful of other peoples’ property.


1: Learn the Ropes

 For number one, I went to our regional expert on boating safety, Scott Spivey. Scott says a big irritant on the lake is people who want to get from where they are to where they want to be in a straight line, expecting everyone else to get out of their way. They either don’t understand or don’t care about a little something called right-of-way. Just because they want to chart a straight line across the lake, doesn’t mean they have the right.


Scott Spivey’s Lighthouse Marine Service offers a great course in boating safety. It takes seven hours and costs only $35.00. Well worth the time and money to learn to operate your boat with greater safety and courtesy. Think of it as Driver’s Ed for the water.


See the safety class schedule!



Pilot Media publishes boating guides providing comprehensive information on boating and waterfront living. Each edition includes an index of boat related businesses, reference maps, marina & boatyard guides, a directory of waterfront & water-access restaurants - The Pilot's Galley - and a Fishing Guide that includes a directory to area fishing service providers.  Read more >

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