Don't Be A Boating Jerk
Boating is a great way to make friends on the water. Or not. If you’re a novice – or simply oblivious to those around you – you can make enemies in a hurry. Here are some tips for kinder, gentler and safer boating.
• Prepare your boat in the parking area away from the ramp. Then when it’s your turn, back down and let your boat off the trailer and drive off. Don’t take too much time and block other boaters.
• If your boat is getting under way from a dock or coming out of a creek or cove, wait until the main channel traffic clears, then proceed safely.
• Remember when crossing the path of another boat that the boat on the right has the right of way. Slow down and allow plenty of room, or change course, cut right and go behind the other boat.
• Leave plenty of room between your boat and kayaks, canoes, rowboats, sailboats, fishermen or swimmers. Be aware that your wake can swamp or annoy any of these, and by law you are responsible for your wake.
Remember that swimmers are especially hard to see, and keep a constant lookout for them. Conversely, if you have people swimming from your boat, keep it close by to make them more visible.
Skiing and Wakeboarding
• If you’re cruising along behind a skier, be careful not to follow too closely, especially in a narrow cove. If the skier should fall, you may not have time to react.
• If you’re skiing or wakeboarding, keep common courtesy in mind. Don’t make a cut that sprays people in another boat or on a pier or dock. Be sure a passing boat is well in front of you before jumping over to catch its wake. Cutting it too closely can be dangerous to you and other boaters.
• When you drive a boat for tubing, you need to weave from side to side to make the tube swing. But be mindful of other boats around you or you may endanger the person you’re pulling. Most experienced boaters can see what you’re doing, but unpredictable moves can be dangerous.
Pardon My Jet Ski
• Because they’re small and come from everywhere – not just the main channel – jet skis can be hard for other boaters to see. Though it’s tempting to come in close behind other boats and jump their wakes, remember the law requires you to stay at least 100 feet back. Similarly, when crossing the path of another boat, don’t cut too close in front of it.
• You are certain to encounter boats with no lights or with their red and green lights reversed. Be extra cautious and go slow so you’ll have time to react.
• Don’t drive with your docking lights on. This blinds everyone else, which is dangerous and annoying.
• Don’t drink and drive your boat (day or night). If your trip includes a few drinks, designate a non-drinking driver.
• Remember that by law you are responsible for making sure the lights on your boat are working properly. Police are strict about this. Carry spare bulbs.
• If you like a big blast of music while you’re wakeboarding or enjoy rafting up near the shore with other boats, be aware that somewhere near you – on land or water – there are people who love peace and quiet. Be considerate, and remember that sound travels remarkable distances over water.
• Channel 16 on VHF and channel 70 on the new digital select VHF radio system are reserved for monitoring and use by emergency services. Switch to another channel for conversation.
• Drop anchor far enough from other boats that your line won’t get crossed with theirs. Always anchor upwind, and remember that your boat will swing windward while at anchor.
• Use common sense and courtesy when anchoring near other boats. No matter how delightful you are, chances are your fellow boaters would like a little privacy. Keep your radio turned low, in case you like reggae and they like baroque.
• Turn on your anchor light – a white light attached to the highest point possible on your boat – that’s visible in every direction.
• When docking, go slow and maintain control of your craft. If you feel uncomfortable about your approach, don’t be too proud to back out and start over. Your boat and those of others are too costly to risk damage trying to preserve your macho image.
• If you’re on the dock when another boat comes in and the driver throws you a line, grab it and wrap it around a cleat. Don’t try to pull the boat in. Let the driver control the situation.
Learn the Ropes
To learn the rules of the road and basic boating skills, check out one of several schools and organizations that teach beginning courses, like the US Coast Guard Auxiliary (www.cgaux.org), US Power Squadron (www.usps.org) and Sea School (www.seaschool.com).