BOATING and COURTESY
There are laws and rules that clearly govern the operation of boats on our waterways: where a boat can travel, at what speed a boat can travel and who generally has the right of way when travelling. Too often however we lose sight of the fact that although we "may" have the right of way, it is the responsibility of every captain of a vessel to avoid a collision. Further, it is the responsibility of every captain to know the rules for an area and what the expectations are for his / her vessel in that area. Beyond all of this, there should be the expectation that the operator of every vessel will operate the vessel safely and with courtesy to other boats in the vicinity.
One only has to watch boats around the narrow waterways on most Saturday or Sunday afternoons. Some boats travel through the narrow area of the waterway at a high rate of speed and leave behind them, in the water, a large wake (waves). These waves when mixed with the winds of the day, the waves from other boat traffic and the strong swift current can turn this section of the passageway into a boiling mess that is dangerous to small boats and makes even larger boats very difficult to control under these conditions. Wouldn't it be great if all captains operated their boats with some courtesy? If all captains travelled through these areas with no wake they would make this a much safer area to travel, to get to and from the waters on either side of the narrower passages.
Any one who has been around a marina or anchorage area knows what the wake behind a boat can do. Moving too quickly and causing any wake in a marina or anchorage can cause serious problems. First and most obvious is the damage that these waves can cause to a boat. Couple this with what these waves can do to the footing and movement of passengers on board who are not aware of these waves coming.... Or what if someone is cooking onboard and the waves cause a spill of hot food items and / or liquids onto the people below deck. Simple courtesy tells you NO WAKE in any marina or anchorage area. Potentially damaging waves are not caused only by larger vessels. They can also be caused by very small boats such as motorized inflatable boats or personal water craft that are being operated too quickly in tight areas . Posting a speed limit is not enough. Courtesy suggests NO WAKE !
Another area of concern arises when vessels traverse narrow but marked or buoyed channels. These channels are so marked because of the unsafe water conditions outside of the marked area. There will be rocks, shallow water or other obstructions that if ventured near will cause serious damage to the underwater parts of a boat. In these conditions, ALL captains have to exercise extreme caution and courtesy to be certain that they are not causing other boats to move from the channel.... In such cases every boater must attempt to avoid a collision regardless of the circumstances or who has the right of way.
Other areas of courtesy are also to be considered. When boating in or around known swimming areas the captain should be extra cautious and extra courteous. Small children swimming can be easily knocked down into the water by waves from a large boat. Staying at least 600 feet from the swimming area when travelling fast will help the waves to settle before reaching the swimmers.
Boaters must always be aware of the impact their wake can also have on the shoreline. Large waves from boats moving quickly can cause shoreline damage. This erosion and the cost of repair can become a problem and have consequences if the boater responsible is apprehended. Boaters need to know that they ARE RESPONSIBLE for any and all damage caused by their wake. Therefore, exercising caution and showing courtesy is always the best rule. Stay out from shore. If indeed you need to be in closer while traversing a narrow river or channel area, slow down and be a responsible boater.
In the St. Clair River, for example, using the middle portion of the river makes for a safer shore area. Michigan law calls for boats 26 feet long and over to stay at least 600 feet from shore if making a wake. Federal law in Canada which governs the river calls for all vessels 20 metres or longer not to exceed 10.4 knots or 12 miles per hour on the river. Find out what the rules are that govern where you are a boater. Know the rules and obey them.
Courtesy on the water when practised by all boaters makes for a safer boating experience for everyone. Even if it is within the law to travel more quickly in an area, be considerate of other boaters. Sailboats, small boats and fishing boats can get into difficulty if the wake from a larger boat moving quickly causes them to get caught in the waves. The small amount of time saved when travelling through narrow passages or near smaller vessels, is of little value if someone has been injured because of poor boating habits, and the lack of boating courtesy..
Check the Boating Links area of the www.boatcan.com website for entry into other sites that will offer more understanding of the waterway rules and how they apply to you. One you should check out is the Canadian Safe Boating Council as it provides information about the upcoming SAFE BOATING AWARENESS WEEK. The Canadian Power and Sail Squadron is also an excellent place for you to learn what you should know to be a RESPONSIBLE BOATER!!!
After all, for most of us, boating is a recreational activity so let's make it SAFE and FUN at the same time. Be courteous and be sensible when in control of your vessel.... and take the time to truly be the Captain of your own vessel.
THINK ABOUT THIS... Without a BOAT, 75% of the Earth’s Surface is Wasted!!!!
Author: Dave McPhail, President of Boatcan