THE FINE PRINT

Un­der­stand­ing the ba­sics can help boaters avoid stress­ful sce­nar­ios

Marlin - - CONTENTS DEPARTMENTS - BY R ALEIGH P. WAT­SON, ESQ.

Recre­ational boat­ing is unique in that most ju­ris­dic­tions al­low con­sumers to pur­chase a ves­sel and use it with­out train­ing or li­cens­ing of any kind. Re­gard­less of ex­pe­ri­ence, all boaters should be fa­mil­iar with the Nav­i­ga­tion Rules of the Road, which are es­sen­tially right-of-way rules to as­sist boaters in avoid­ing col­li­sions on the wa­ter. The rules are for­mal­ized in the Con­ven­tion on the In­ter­na­tional Reg­u­la­tions for Pre­vent­ing Col­li­sions at Sea and the In­land Nav­i­ga­tion Rules Act, col­lec­tively known as the Rules of the Road. The COLREGS are ap­pli­ca­ble on wa­ters out­side es­tab­lished nav­i­ga­tional lines of de­mar­ca­tion, while the In­land Rules ap­ply to ves­sels upon the in­land wa­ters of the United States.

BOAT TRAF­FIC CAN BE IN­TENSE

I was in More­head City, North Carolina, dur­ing the 2018 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tour­na­ment and was amazed at the amount of boat traf­fic in the wa­ter­ways. It seemed like ev­ery day, we were put in a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion as we en­tered the nar­row chan­nel into our ma­rina. On mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions, a small cen­ter con­sole would exit as we were en­ter­ing with our 65-foot sport-fisher, leav­ing us with lit­tle room to nav­i­gate due to shal­low wa­ter on each side of the chan­nel.

In each in­stance, the cen­ter con­sole was lin­ger­ing in the mid­dle of the chan­nel, un­aware of the se­ri­ous­ness of the sit­u­a­tion. A cou­ple of blasts from our horn even­tu­ally got their at­ten­tion and they ma­neu­vered back to their side of the chan­nel, but only af­ter some tense mo­ments for our cap­tain. This type of sit­u­a­tion is partly to blame on the fact that many boaters are un­aware of the draft and lim­ited ma­neu­ver­abil­ity of big sport-fish boats com­pared to smaller ves­sels, but also be­cause they are not fa­mil­iar with the Rules of the Road.

We are un­able to cover ev­ery rule and its con­tents in this ar­ti­cle, but sev­eral of them are di­rectly rel­e­vant to the sce­nario

above. To be­gin with, Rule 14 states that ves­sels ap­proach­ing head-on shall al­ter course to star­board so each will pass port to port. In this re­gard, boat­ing is sim­i­lar to driv­ing a car on the high­way.

NAR­ROW CHAN­NELS

Rule 9 specif­i­cally cov­ers the pro­ce­dures for nar­row chan­nels. The rule states that any ves­sel pro­ceed­ing along the course of a nar­row chan­nel shall keep near to the outer limit of the chan­nel that lies on its star­board side as is safe and prac­ti­ca­ble. The rule fur­ther states that a ves­sel of less than 20 me­ters in length, or a sail­ing ves­sel, shall not im­pede the pas­sage of a ves­sel that can safely nav­i­gate only within a nar­row chan­nel. Hence, any smaller boats in the sce­nario above should have al­tered course to­ward their star­board to the outer limit of the chan­nel, or even out­side the marked chan­nel if pos­si­ble, to avoid im­ped­ing the pas­sage of the much larger in­board-pow­ered sport­fisher en­ter­ing the ma­rina.

THE BOATER’S RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY

Lastly, Rule 2 re­quires that due re­gard be given to all dan­gers of nav­i­ga­tion and col­li­sion. Specif­i­cally, this al­lows boaters to de­part from the rules if nec­es­sary to avoid im­me­di­ate dan­ger of col­li­sion. This can oc­cur when there are a few boats in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity of one an­other or per­haps when an­other boater is sim­ply not pay­ing at­ten­tion. In such a case, it is a boater’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to take the nec­es­sary ac­tions to avoid a col­li­sion.

No mat­ter the size of the ves­sel we op­er­ate — from cen­ter con­sole to megay­acht — we are still re­quired to know the rules. Be mind­ful of the deeper draft and lim­ited ma­neu­ver­abil­ity of larger boats next time you are on the wa­ter. In the mean­time, an elec­tronic copy of the Rules of the Road can be down­loaded from the Coast Guard’s Nav­i­ga­tion Cen­ter web­site. The rules are fairly easy to read and will give you a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of your re­quire­ments as a boater in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions.

Be aware of the lim­ited ma­neu­ver­abil­ity of larger ves­sels, es­pe­cially in nar­row chan­nels or mari­nas.

ABOUT THE AU­THOR RALEIGH WAT­SON IS OF COUN­SEL WITH MILLER LAW, PLLC, A MAR­ITIME LAW FIRM IN JUPITER, FLORIDA. HE IS ALSO AN AVID AN­GLER.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.