Safe Boating in High Traffic Areas
It’s the height of summer and everyone wants to be on their boat! Knowing the rules of the waterway and watching out for others is never more important than when you’re boating in a crowded creek, busy waterway, or around a congested dock. While you may be a very experienced boater, the person approaching you may not be, which makes it all the more important for you to be a defensive driver.
Before leaving the dock, make sure your horn is working or that you have an air horn or whistle to alert other boaters. Talk to the passengers on your boat. They can assist you in many ways. First and foremost, they need to remain seated with their hands and feet inside the boat to prevent you from being distracted. Second, they can also provide extra eyes, alerting you if a boat in your vicinity makes a sudden move in your direction, or if there are any obstacles or debris in the water. This will be especially helpful if you’re participating in watersport activities.
When boating in a busy area, slow down and don’t make quick directional changes. This will allow boats around you to know what you are doing in plenty of time to avoid a problem.
Keep your eyes on the water. If you need to look at your electronics, check your position, or anything else that will divert your eyes from the waterway, get out of the channel, and stop. Another option is to ask someone else on board to check the charts for you.
In addition to many moving boats, including some with captains that are not aware of the waterway rules, you may encounter one or more boats anchored inside or in close proximity to a channel. Elicit the help of your passengers to watch for anchor lines that may be in your path. If you’re going to be anchoring, alone or with a group, make sure you do so away from any area where there is a lot of boat traffic. This will protect your boat and your passengers who may want to get in the water to cool off or go for a swim.
Even if you’re an experienced boater it never hurts to go through a quick refresher. Before you head out, here’s a guide to buoys and markers.
Finally, be patient. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination so you can slow down if necessary. When approaching a dock or the boat ramp, take your time and leave plenty of room for other boats to maneuver around you.