Recreational boaters should always be looking out for other boaters in order to avoid boat collisions.
All boats of every size should be equipped with devices that can alert others of your presence. One or more of the following devices should be in every boat.
- Whistles – A good whistle can alert other boaters to your presence because the high pitch generated from blowing a whistle is like no other sound on the water. The noise also carries a far distance so that other boaters are given warning far in advance of a collision.
- Horns – Jon Boats can usually get by with a hand-held air horn like a Falcon Commander horn. There are many different hand-held air horns to choose from. The main downfall of using a hand-held air horn is that they periodically run out. However, due to their low price most boaters can afford to have a spare or two in their boats at all times. Larger boats usually opt for horns that are hooked up electrically to their 12 volt power supply.
- Bells – Another signaling device that is mostly used by larger boats are bells. Bells can be hooked up to ring at all times when the boat is moving or bouncing in waves or they can be stationary and only rung when the captain rings the bell to alert other boaters of their presence.
- Gongs- Gongs are usually only employed on larger vessels but small gongs can be used on small boats to alert others of their presence in unsafe conditions.
How To Avoid Boat Collisions
If boating at night or during low light conditions, lights are essential for avoiding boat collisions.
If you are caught in a situation where a boat is approaching and you do not believe they see you, let them know of your presence far in advance by blowing on your whistle or using your horn.
It is possible that they will hear your signaling device but still not veer out of your path because they cannot locate you. In this case, shine a bright torchlight at them until they move aside and you feel safe. Always be ready as a last resort to move your boat in order to avoid a collision with another boat.
It is very important during low light conditions to drive your boat slowly and always be on the lookout for watercraft that can be in front of you. If need be, periodically shine a torchlight in front of you to clear the path.
To avoid collisions with other boats, there are standard “right of way” rules. These rules dictate what should happen when two boats are going to meet and occupy the same area of water.
When this happens, and it does happen quite often on busy waters, one boat “stands on” course while the other boat “gives way” and lets the other boat pass.
Commercial fishing boats always have the right of way when they are operating their nets. Sailboats always have the right of way when they are operating with only their sails. It is very important to look out for these boats as to avoid collisions with them.
When two boats under power are going to meet, the boat on the right has the right of way and the other boat should yield so there is no collision.
Another thing to consider is that when you are about to pass a boat in a narrow waterway like rivers or channels, they have the right of way and can deny you the opportunity to pass if they think the passing is unsafe.
When In Doubt…Yield!
One final note: when in doubt, yield the right of way to avoid a collision by signaling the other boat to take the right of way.