Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Navigation Rules (Waterway Laws)

Good Seamanship
It is the responsibility of every boat or PWC operator to take all necessary action to avoid a collision, taking into account the weather, vessel traffic, and limits of other vessels. This action should be taken in ample time to avoid a collision and at a safe distance from other vessels.
Keep a Proper Lookout
Failing to keep a sharp lookout is the most common cause of collisions. Every operator must keep a proper lookout, using both sight and hearing, at all times. Watch and listen for other vessels, radio communications, navigational hazards.

Maintain a safe speed
In keepind a safe speed will ensures you to have ample time to avoid a collision and can stop within an appropriate distance. Safe speed will vary depending on the conditions such as wind, visibility, vessel traffic, and the maneuverability of your boat. Always reduce speed and navigate with caution at night and when visibility is restricted.

Navigation Rules Definitions
For the purpose of the U.S. Coast Guard's navigation rules, the following definitions apply.

Vessel: Every kind of watercraft capable of being used as a means of transportation on water, including seaplanes.

Power-driven vessel: Any vessel propelled by machinery, including a sailboat using an engine.

Sailing vessel: Any vessel under sail and no engine in use.

Vessel engaged in fishing: Any vessel fishing with nets, lines, trawls, or other fishing equipment that restricts maneuverability, however this does not include a vessel fishing with trolling lines or other fishing equipment that does not restrict maneuverability.

Underway: Not anchored, tied to shore, or aground.

Risk of collision: Any situation where an approaching vessel continues on a collision course such as the bearing of the approaching vessel does not change, or anytime you are approaching a large vessel.

Here are some are rules that every operator must follow when encountering other vessels.

Give-way vessel: The vessel that is required to take early and substantial action to keep well away from other vessels by stopping, slowing down, or changing course. Avoid crossing in front of other vessels. Any change of course or speed should be large enough to be apparent to another vessel. A series of small changes should be avoided.

Stand-on vessel: The vessel that must maintain its course and speed unless it becomes apparent that the give-way vessel is not taking appropriate action. If you must take action, do not turn toward the give-way vessel or cross in front of it.

The action a vessel operator should take when encountering another vessel depends on two questions.

1. How are the two vessels propelled.
Two power-driven vessels
Two sailing vessels
A power-driven vessel and a sailing vessel and

2. How are the two vessels approaching one another.
Meeting head-on: A vessel operator sees another vessel ahead or nearly ahead
Paths that cross: Two vessels are on crossing paths so as to involve risk of collision
Overtaking: A vessel is coming upon another vessel from behind or nearly behind the other vessel.

The rules that follow cover most of the situations you will encounter as a boater. There are some exceptions to the rules. For example, if you approach a vessel that has less maneuverability than your vessel, the other vessel will usually be the stand-on vessel.

Every operator is responsible for avoiding a collision. In complying with the navigation rules, operators must consider all dangers of navigation; risk of collisions; and any special conditions, including the limitations of the vessels involved. These considerations may make a departure from the navigation rules necessary to avoid immediate danger.

Responsibilities Between Vessels
If operating a power-driven vessel, you must give way to:
Any vessel not under command, such as an anchored or disabled vessel.
Any vessel restricted in its ability to maneuver, such as a vessel towing, laying cable, or picking up navigation markers, or a vessel constrained by its draft, such as a large ship in a channel.
A vessel engaged in commercial fishing.
A sailing vessel unless it is overtaking.

If operating a sailing vessel, you must give way to:
Any vessel not under command
Any vessel restricted in its ability to maneuver
A vessel engaged in commercial fishing

Rendering Assistance, the navigation rules also require operators to stop and render assistance to a vessel in distress unless doing so would endanger their own vessel or passengers.

Operating During Restricted Visibility:
All operators should navigate with extreme caution if visibility is restricted. The following applies to vessels not in sight of one another.

Every vessel must proceed at a safe speed given the conditions of restricted visibility. A power-driven vessel must have its engines ready to maneuver immediately.

You can download the rules at