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Boating Etiquette and Safety Tips

Most people who drive a car are familiar with the customs and traditions of courtesy on the road, but not all recreational boaters are aware that a similar code of conduct exists on the water. Learn how boating etiquette can make boating even more pleasurable — for you and your fellow captains.

Watch Your Wake

While you’re blissfully cruising away, your vessel is kicking up disruptive waves, otherwise known as wake. Those waves might be fun if you’re a surfer or a wakeboarder, but for other boaters, they can be annoying and potentially even dangerous. Besides being a rude interruption, a speeding vessel’s wake can cause passengers on another boat’s deck to be thrown overboard. And, if anyone onboard happens to be handling something dangerous — hot coffee, for example –your wake could cause a serious problem.

In order to reduce the effect of your wake, decrease your speed as you’re approaching the other vessel. If you’re overtaking a boat, allow a wide berth. If you have a VHF radio,it’s not a bad idea to call the other boat and let them know that you intend to pass them. If a ship is passing another vessel, it gives a single blast on its horn, which means it is turning to starboard. Two blasts signals a turn to port. If you are the vessel being overtaken, slow down and allow the other boat to pass. This lets the passing boat reduce its speed and, as a result, throw less wake.

Mind Your Manners While Launching and Docking

Speed, efficiency, and consideration are the bottom line to minding your manners while launching and docking your watercraft.

  • Boat ramps often have long lines. If you’re inexperienced when it comes to backing your trailer down the ramp to the water, practice maneuvering your trailer in an empty parking lot or other vacant space.
  • It’s frustrating to others when you take extra time during launch to perform tasks you could have taken care of beforehand. Load your boat and secure your belongings before beginning your launch.
  • After you launch, steer your boat into an unused area and promptly return your towing vehicle to the parking lot so you’re out of the way of other boaters who are trying to launch.
  • When it comes time to moor your boat at the dock, be aware of your anchor and mooring lines. These could easily become a safety hazard if a passerby were to trip over them.
  • When fueling up, don’t stop to run errands or hang around to chat with other boaters. Other vessels also want to refuel and they don’t want to wait for you while you socialize.

Proper launching and docking techniques are essential knowledge for any personal watercraft owner.

Respect the Peace and Quiet

Some boat owners are thrill-seekers, but many boaters love the activity for its sense of calm serenity. Try not to spoil it for them with loud partying and engine noise.

  • Sound carries over water. If you’re having a social gathering with other boats, try to do it away from the shore and other boat owners who may just want to enjoy their solitude.
  • If you’re practicing a particular boating technique or maneuver, be sure to do so in more than one area. The repetitive noise can be bothersome for others.
  • Outboard engine modifications, just like car engine modifications, can cause excessive noise. Avoid modifications that do this.
  • Be particularly sensitive to early-morning noise near areas where homeowners or campers may be sleeping.

Keep it Clean

Pollution ruins the water for everybody. It kills fish and wildlife, detracts from the beauty of the landscape, and contaminates waterways. Respect the water by being an environmentally friendly boater.

  • Protect local wildlife by reducing your wake near the shoreline.
  • Make sure the water is deep enough for your watercraft. If the water is too shallow, your boat could harm local vegetation or wildlife (not to mention the bottom of your boat!).
  • Be careful when replacing your oil or refueling not to spill into the water.
  • Never, ever throw your trash into the water. Collect it and dispose of it properly when you’re shoreside. If space is an issue, it might help to remove all extraneous packaging materials such as unnecessary boxes before you load your supplies onboard your boat.
  • Ensure that your craft has proper onboard sanitation facilities and never dump any sewage into the water.
  • Avoid anchoring in areas with native reeds and grasses, which often support delicate ecosystems.

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