Young handsome man relaxing on his sailboat

What Should You Do to Avoid Colliding with Another Boat?

Avoiding boat collisions on the water and minimizing the risk of a boating accident is the first priority of any skipper.

As the vessel’s captain, you’re responsible for the safety of your crew, any surrounding vessels and the environment where you boat. With that responsibility comes a need for a basic level of knowledge and good situational awareness.

Here are some safety recommendations for you and other vessels to assist you build that understanding.

Always maintain a watch.

This implies that you or someone on board is always on the alert for other boats, navigation aids, people in the water or any hazards.

Standing a watch is especially important in times of reduced visibility such as in fog or at night. Keep binoculars at hand.

Understand marine navigation rules.

Knowing the rules of the road and which boat has the right of way when two boats meet is the best method to prevent boat collisions.

Stay clear of shipping lanes.

Large vessels use shipping lanes as routes while transporting cargo to and from ports. On charts, these lanes are commonly described by magenta swaths. They typically have up- and down-stream traffic lanes and are five miles wide.

Understand the implications of speed.

Ships travel on average at 30 knots, so even if you’re not in the shipping lanes, understand that a cargo vessel or cruise ship can move from the horizon to your location in 15 minutes.

Remain visible at all times.

Small pleasure craft are difficult to see, especially from a ship’s deck and when it is foggy or dark.

Keep your VHF radio on underway.

When you’re moving, keep the VHF radio on.

Only boat when well-rested and sober.

Man driving boat

Fatigue leads to faulty decision making so just as with driving a car, so never operate a boat while sleepy or tired. Remember that boating while drunk (BIU) is just as risky and serious as a DIU.

Expect the unexpected.

Move slowly and keep a close eye out when boating in the early morning or late afternoon when there is glare on the water from a low-lying sun.

Storm on ocean

Remember that after a storm or major rainfall, the amount of debris on lakes, rivers, and coastal areas increases, so you may run into an unexpected log or bucket in your way.

Maintain a speed appropriate to conditions.

Sea Trip on Personal Boat

Boat smart and use common sense

Avoiding boat collisions is up to everyone so never assume someone else will take evasive measures even if you have the right of way. Boat safely to prevent boating accidents.


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