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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In my job I occasionally pen boating safety related material. Here is one of the articles I have written and have been sharing on social media.

Navigation Rules 101

The Navigation Rules book is just over 200 pages long. Some of the more technical aspects can be complicated. Fortunately for us recreational boaters the situations we most often encounter and the rules we apply to those situations are few and they are simple. Let’s explore a few of the more commonly applied rules here.

All vessels are required at all times to keep a lookout by all available means. Everyone on the boat can and should play a role in keeping a lookout. A GPS/Chartplotter and your radar, if equipped, should be used. We have to proceed at a safe speed so that we can take action to avoid collision and to be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances. Visibility and traffic density are a few factors to consider in establishing safe speed.

Many collisions occur at blind bends or other places where the operator’s sight line is diminished. We MUST assume there is another boat on the other side of that bend in the river, that peninsula or point in the lake or on the other side of that visual obstruction and we MUST adjust our speed accordingly. The other boat may even be approaching at a high rate of speed. At night we are going to have to back off of the throttle. In fog or heavy rain, do not use a GPS as if it is a radar. It may show us where we are going, but it won’t show other boats. Every year boaters lose their lives using their GPS as their eyes in poor visibility.

Let’s look at how power boaters are required to operate in encounters with other power boaters on open waters. There are 3 basic categories of navigational situations. Overtaking situations, head-on situations and crossing situations. In each of those there is a “stand on” vessel and a “give way” vessel. There are sound signals we may be required to use in these situations, but that’s a lesson for another day.

In overtaking situations, the vessel being overtaken is the stand on, and the vessel overtaking is give way. The vessel overtaking should give a wide berth to avoid a close call. The vessel being overtaken should maintain course and speed. Any boat operator must take good look around before making a course or speed alteration. Crashes all too often happen when a boat is being overtaken. The operator doesn’t realize they are being overtaken, doesn’t take a look around and makes a turn directly in front of the overtaking boat.

Head on situations are easy. Generally we should set up to meet each other just like we do on the road. Each boat should bring the other down its port/left side absent other arrangements. The rules tell us to act early and decisively. Well before we come close to each other, each operator should make an appreciable alteration of course to starboard. In doing so we clearly communicate our intentions and open up enough sea room to keep from having a close call.

In crossing situations the vessel that is to the starboard/right is the stand on vessel. When approaching a vessel that is to the right of us we are required to take early and decisive action. Well before it becomes a close call, we should set up to go well around the stern of the boat to our right. We have all been out there on the water when the give way vessel continues to steer on a collision course with us leaving us wondering what they are going to do. Don't be that boater. Action should be EARLY and DECISIVE enough to be readily apparent to the other boater.

If a boat is operating in a channel and we are outside of the channel, the boat inside the channel may not be able to operate safely outside of the channel, and in such case will be the stand on vessel.

Crowded waterways are another place where collisions are more common. On busy waterways we may have multiple navigational situations at the same time. If at any time we become unsure of how we should operate or of what the other boaters are doing, we are required to slow down. Even if we are the stand on vessel we are required by the rules to take all action necessary to avoid collisions.

Let’s touch on navigation lights real quick. Let’s assume we are all on recreational power driven vessels less than 12 meters in length. We are required to have red and green sidelights. They can be separate or in a combination light. We must also have a white all around light that must be high enough to be seen from 360 degrees. These must be purpose built navigation lights. LED strips and such do not meet the requirements.

There are a dizzying array of auxiliary lights being marketed to and used by recreational boaters. It’s generally a bad idea to run with some of these auxiliary lights. We cannot burn auxiliary lights underway if they do the following: 1. Interfere with another boater’s ability to distinguish the lights we are required to burn. 2. May be mistaken for other lights specified in the rules. 3. Interfere with our ability or another boater’s ability to keep a proper lookout.

Let’s get into #3 a little bit. If we are burning a spotlight or a light bar, and that light is directed in the direction of another boater, we have just degraded their night vision and have violated the navigation rules. The presence of auxiliary lights on our boat may look cool, but they all too often present a confusing picture to other boaters and they without question degrade our own night vision. In that case, the auxiliary lighting is illegal as well. Auxiliary lighting enforcement is becoming a hot topic with boating law administrators all across the country. Expect to see more of an enforcement focus on this in the future.

In boating accidents there is generally not an “at fault” party. Since both parties have a legal duty to take all action necessary to avoid collision, when collisions are litigated each party is typically apportioned some percentage of the responsibility. Who among us wants to be legally liable for any percentage of the value of a human life?

It’s difficult to reduce 200 plus pages of content to the most meaningful 2 pages of information. To that end all readers are encouraged to take a look at the navigation rules online. They can be found easily using the search engine of your choice. Since states are not allowed to have Navigation Rules that conflict with the federal rules, you don’t have two sets of rules to play by.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
This should be a sticky at the top of the page or have a place where it can and will be seen by anyone that opens this forum...
Thanks for posting!
Thanks for the kind words Smack. I realize in posting to this forum and The Hull Truth that I am communicating with a better educated and generally better prepared segment of the recreational boating public, but since I already had it typed out, I thought I may as well drop it in here. It could launch some productive discussion.

From my perspective the speed around blind bends is my greatest concern. One year back when I was a SAR controller we worked 5 different fatal collisions where boaters were blasting around blind bends and collided with other boaters.
 

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Thank you for that post. I have actually attempted to do the same thing on a couple of other forums, and the moderators would not permit it. It's heartwarming to see that some members here have enough sense to appreciate it. Well done! One thing that I might add, if I may, is that there seems to be a lot of confusion in many situations about the technical requirements for lights. Please direct folks to Annex I for those specifics. More and more often, I see professionals on the water with lights that are not remotely legal. Friday morning in Port Aransas several guides were running out of the marina in bay boats with standup center consoles, and those silly little white lights on the outboard's cowling; one actually had his white 360* light lower than his sidelights. You'd think professionals would want to get it right.......
 

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Thank you for that post. I have actually attempted to do the same thing on a couple of other forums, and the moderators would not permit it. It's heartwarming to see that some members here have enough sense to appreciate it. Well done! One thing that I might add, if I may, is that there seems to be a lot of confusion in many situations about the technical requirements for lights. Please direct folks to Annex I for those specifics. More and more often, I see professionals on the water with lights that are not remotely legal. Friday morning in Port Aransas several guides were running out of the marina in bay boats with standup center consoles, and those silly little white lights on the outboard's cowling; one actually had his white 360* light lower than his sidelights. You'd think professionals would want to get it right.......
The sad thing is boat dealers and shops that produce and rig these boats sell them with the lights mounted on top of the cowling. I’ve mentioned it to people when I see their lights like that and get a bunch of back talk.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Without overwhelming anyone with technical specs, the common sense standard is that the 360 degree white light must be visible along its entire 360 degree arc. If you know of a dealer or manufacturer who is routinely selling boats with lights that do not meet the specification, let me know. If they are in my 26 state region I'll give them a call. If not, I'll call one of my peers.

But to touch on the technical aspect that Hipshot spoke of, this is what Annex I says that's most important to us rec boaters. "...all-round light shall be carried at least 1 meter higher than the sidelights." Rule 21 says this about the all-around light "All-round light means a light showing an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 360°." If it's obscure by a console or a person or anything else, it is not "showing" over the 360 degree arc.
 

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My pet peeve are the nav. side lighst mounted on the center console main body,,,as in someone standing will block the side light...factory install:mad:
 

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The sad thing is boat dealers and shops that produce and rig these boats sell them with the lights mounted on top of the cowling. I’ve mentioned it to people when I see their lights like that and get a bunch of back talk.
sounds like the local marine units need to do some educative enforcement
 

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dranrab, exactly my point. I can't tell you which dealers are selling boats rigged like that, but I have seen brand new boats on the water like that. When I worked enforcement in a boat I once chased (he wasn't running from me, he just didn't know I was way back there) a brand new bass boat that was running over 70 in the dark on the morning of a big tournament. His combination light was showing red to starboard and green to port. When I finally caught up he didn't understand what the problem was, because that's how the dealer delivered it. But I guarantee if you were to visit a bunch of dealerships along the Texas coast -- and a few inland also -- you'd find new boats rigged like that on the showroom floors and in the rigging bays.
 

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I wish they made boaters take etiquette classes (maybe as a requisite to get a fishing license or boat registration renewed), at least here in FL where the density is far higher than many other areas. All it takes is one to ruin it for a bunch of people. Innocent or intentional, I wish there was a way to report serial offenders: jet skiers, pontoon boats, and frat boys who stole dad's boat for a sandbar day come to mind. Just last week I had a nice string of about 20 tarpon swimming right on line to where I was staked out.. then I see the dolphin tour pontoon boat come from my right, cutting off the string. Lady has the nerve to yell to me: "I'm bringing them right to ya" as she proceeds to position her pontoon directly between the line of fish heading my way and my skiff. More ammo that any asshat can get a captains license. Bunch of googans out there - wish there was a good method for reprisal. Plenty of other times I've had weekend warriors literally motor right through strings of fish - completely oblivious to any "rules of the road" or etiquette. It sucks, but guess I have to get used to it. Any of you kind folks have a good way of handling these situations other than the "big shrug" of "what the F are you doing / come on, man"??
 

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I'd love to see a boating license, at least in the urban areas in Texas. But it'd be a very un-PC move that wouldn't stand a chance. The problem is that a lot of people have no idea that there are rules and regulations for operating a vessel. And even if they were to enact mandatory licensing, just take a look at all the licensed idiots on the highway trying to see who can out-stupid who, and you'll begin to comprehend just how (in)effective licensing would be. Some would adhere to the rules, but many would refuse to.

When I worked in a boat the attitude of many judges and prosecutors was, "You don't mess with Texans while they're recreatin'." It probably still is. The first thing the judge told me when I went to Marine Enforcement was, "Pontoon boats can't make a wake, and I don't want to see any chickensh!t tickets." I filed hundreds of tickets in his court (my record was 167 in one day) for mostly safety violations. I never once went to court, and I know that all those violators didn't plead guilty and pay the fines..........
 

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Without overwhelming anyone with technical specs, the common sense standard is that the 360 degree white light must be visible along its entire 360 degree arc. If you know of a dealer or manufacturer who is routinely selling boats with lights that do not meet the specification, let me know. If they are in my 26 state region I'll give them a call. If not, I'll call one of my peers.

But to touch on the technical aspect that Hipshot spoke of, this is what Annex I says that's most important to us rec boaters. "...all-round light shall be carried at least 1 meter higher than the sidelights." Rule 21 says this about the all-around light "All-round light means a light showing an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 360°." If it's obscure by a console or a person or anything else, it is not "showing" over the 360 degree arc.
Take a look at the many builders that use non approved bow lights...that should keep you busy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
My pet peeve are the nav. side lighst mounted on the center console main body,,,as in someone standing will block the side light...factory install:mad:
Not only are they more likely to be obscured by a passenger, they cast night vision damaging light into the boat's cockpit. Our eyes are remarkably adaptable. You'd be surprised what you can see even on dark nights. IF you eliminate or dim lights to the fullest extent practical. When I started my CG career our trailer boats had no LORAN (Boat GPS wasn't available then) and no radar. That meant running emergencies at night with none of the sensors that have us so spoiled today. With dedicated light discipline, our eyes will serve us better at night than most people realize.
 
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