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Navigation and Maneuvering

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  • Navigation and Maneuvering

    Rules of the Road

    Right of Way Rules

    Because there are so many different types of boats and styles of boating, it is important to know what to expect when you come upon another vessel.

    "Vessels" are anything that floats on the water that

    is used, or is capable of being used as a means of transportation on water. A log, a bathtub and many other things could be considered a vessel under the Navigation Rules. The Navigation Rules distinguish one vessel from another by both its design, and by its actions. This section covers maneuvering rules only.

    There are other navigation rules that you are required to know. Sound Rules are covered under the Sound Signaling Equipment section. Light Rules are covered under the Navigation Light Equipment section.

    The Rules of the Road are published by the U. S. Government Printing Office, and are available in any boating supply stores. Every boat owner should have a copy, but they are mandatory to be kept on vessels over

    12 meters (39.4 feet) in length.

    The Rules generally used in this course are Inland Rules, unless otherwise noted. There are small but important differences in the Rules depending on where you are operating your boat. It is your responsibility to know the Navigation Rules for your boating area.

    International Rules - Apply to all vessels upon the high seas and in all waters connected to them that are navigable by seagoing vessels.

    Inland Rules - Apply to all vessels upon the inland waters of the United States, and to vessels of the United States on the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes to the extent that there is no conflict with Canadian law. Certain inland waterways may have specific provisions that apply to certain vessels. These areas are:

    o Great Lakes - Includes the Great Lakes and their connecting and tributary waters including the Calumet River as far as the Thomas J. O'Brien Lock and Controlling Works (between mile 326 and 327), the Chicago River as far as the east side of the Ashland Avenue Bridge (between mile 321 and 322), and the Saint Lawrence River as far east as the lower exit of Saint Lambert Lock..

    o Western Rivers - Includes the Mississippi River, its tributaries, South Pass, and Southwest Pass, to the navigational demarcation lines dividing the high seas from harbors, rivers, and other inland waters of the United States, and the Port Allen-Morgan City Alternate Route, and that part of the Atchafalaya River above its junction with the Port Allen-Morgan City Alternate Route including the Old River and the Red River.

  • #2
    Navigation and Maneuvering - Navigation Lights

    Navigation Lights

    Navigation lights are used to prevent collisions at night or in times of reduced visibility, and are an essential tool in keeping you and your vessel safe. Nav lights allow you to see other nearby vessels, and allow other vessels to see you.

    Nav lights also provide information about the size, activity, and direction of travel. By understanding the characteristics of Nav lights, you can determine an appropriate course of action as you approach another vessel.

    You are required to display the appropriate lights at night or during times of reduced visibility.

    On any vessel, navigation lights have a specific color, (white, red, green, yellow, blue), arc of illumination, range of visibility, and location, as required by law and regulations. For the purposes of this course, we will concentrate on pleasure boats under 65 feet in length. Knowledge of navigation lights is important to a small-boat skipper for separate, but important, reasons:
    • You are legally responsible for displaying lights of the proper color, intensity, location and visibility on your boat.
    • You are required to display the appropriate lights at night or during times of reduced visibility.
    • Knowing the type and heading of another boat.
    Legal Requirements:

    Vessels are required to show the proper navigation lights from sunset to sunrise in all weather conditions, good and bad. During these times, no other lights that could be mistaken for lights specified in the Rules of the Road can be displayed, nor any lights that impair the visibility or distinctive character of navigation lights, or interfere with the keeping of a proper lookout. The Rules also state that navigation lights must be shown in conditions of reduced visibility, and may be shown at other times considered necessary.

    Lights must adhere to the standards listed in the following chart:

    It's Your Responsibility

    It is the responsibility of the owner/operator of a vessel that she show the proper navigation lights for her size and the waters in which she is operating. It is not the responsibility of the manufacturer, importer, or selling dealer. Many boats are delivered with lights that do not meet legal requirements with respect to technical characteristics or placement on the vessel. Remember also, that the angles of visibility must be met when the boat is underway-if your boat rides at a significant bow-up angle, take that into consideration when installing and/or checking your lights.


    • #3
      Navigation and Maneuvering - Navigation Sounds

      Navigation Sounds

      Just as lights play a significant role in understanding what other boats are doing, so do sounds. Understanding what you hear is another step towards being a "complete mariner". Virtually every boat is required to have some sound producing device. There is a great deal of latitude in what type of sound making device you choose, but loud is good!

      Legal Requirements:

      Equipment for Sound Signals is based on the length of your boat as follows:
      • Boats less than 39.4 feet in length - must carry an efficient sound producing device. In general, this may be
        a bell, whistle, or air horn. Though guns--even pots and pans--can make a suitable sound signal useful in
        getting attention in an emergency, you should always carry the appropriate equipment.
      • Boats at least 39.4 feet to less than 65.6 feet in length - Must carry a whistle and a bell. The whistle must
        be audible for 1/2 nautical mile. The mouth of the bell must be at least 7.87 inches in diameter.
      When and how to sound off

      Sound signals are to be used only when vessels are in sight of each other and are meeting or crossing at a distance within half a mile of each other. These signals must never be used in fog or other conditions of reduced visibility, where the vessels are not visible to each other by eye. Only the fog signals listed under the Inland Rules, Rule 35 may be sounded at such time.


      Sound signals are called "blasts". There are two different blasts used for warning and steering signals.
      • Short Blast - Lasts about one second.
      • Prolonged Blast - Lasts from four to six seconds.


      • #4
        Navigation and Maneuvering - Navigation Aids Basic

        Unlike the roads and highways that we drive on, the waterways we go boating on do not have road signs that tell us our location, the route or distance to a destination, or of hazards along the way. Instead, the waterways have AIDS TO NAVIGATION (or ATONs), which are all of those man-made objects used by mariners to determine position or a safe course.

        These aids also assist mariners in making a safe landfall, mark isolated dangers, enable pilots to follow channels, and provide a continuous chain of charted marks for precise piloting in coastal waters. The U.S. Aids to Navigation System is intended for use with nautical charts, which provide valuable information regarding water depths, hazards, and other features that you will not find in an atlas or road map.

        The term "aids to navigation" includes buoys, day beacons, lights, lightships, radio beacons, fog signals, marks and other devices used to provide "street" signs on the water. Aids To Navigation include all the visible, audible and electronic symbols that are established by government and private authorities for piloting purposes.

        The Coast Guard is the agency responsible for maintaining aids to navigation on U.S. waters that are under federal jurisdiction or that serve the needs of the U.S. armed forces. On bodies of water wholly within the boundaries of a single state, and not navigable to the sea, the Coast Guard grants the state responsibility for establishing and maintaining aids to navigation. The U.S. Corps of Engineers is responsible for many of the canals, dams, locks, and other man-made waterways in the country. The Corps also is responsible for the regulation of mooring buoys in all navigable U.S. Waters.

        The individual Coast Guard districts also may grant permission to private groups and citizens to place "Private" Aids to Navigation. These aids allow individuals or organizations the ability to mark privately maintained channels, zones or waterways. These aids must be pre-approved, and must be maintained by the individual or organization.

        Types of Aids to Navigation

        The term "aids to navigation" encompasses a wide range of floating and fixed objects (fixed meaning attached to the bottom or shore), and consist primarily of:
        • Buoys - floating objects that are anchored to the bottom. Their distinctive shapes and colors indicate their purpose and how to navigate around them.
        • Beacons - structures that are permanently fixed to the sea-bed or land. They range from structures such as light houses, to single-pile poles. Most beacons have lateral or non-lateral aids attached to them. Lighted beacons are called "LIGHTS", unlighted beacons are "DAYBEACONS".
        Both Buoys and Beacons may have lights attached, and may have a sound making device such as a gong, bell or horn. Both Buoys and Beacons may be called "marks".


        Do not count on floating aids to always maintain their precise charted positions, or unerringly display their characteristics. The Coast Guard works constantly to keep aids on station and functioning properly, but obstacles to perfect performance are so great that complete reliability is impossible. Only use floating aids for use as a navigation fix when you cannot see a fixed point of reference.


        • #5
          Navigation and Maneuvering - Aids to Navigation Systems

          Depending on where you boat in America, you may see several differences in how navigational marks are colored, numbered, or lighted. Regardless of the location, buoys and beacons are placed in very specific locations, to mark either a particular side of a waterway, or some other navigational feature. The primary system in use is referred to the "U.S. Aids to Navigation System". The U. S. Coast Guard maintains this system in conformance to the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities (IALA), which is an international committee which seeks to ensure safe navigation, primarily through the use of common navigation aids and signals.

          The "LATERAL" system is the familiar RED RIGHT RETURNING system, meaning that on all navigable waters returning from sea, the red even-numbered marks are on the starboard (right) side of the channel and the green odd-numbered marks are on the port (left) side of the channel. Numbers on the marks ascend when traveling from sea to harbor--if you don't have a compass and become disoriented on the water, you will always know you are heading upstream if the buoy numbers get larger as you travel.


          • #6
            Navigation and Maneuvering - Port Side Odd Number Aids

            Port Side Odd Numbered Aids

            Port side numbered aids are green in color, odd numbered and may be lighted (Will have a green light).

            Port side marks are located on the left side of the waterway as you travel upstream, and the buoy numbers will
            increase as you head upstream. (Chart depictions are shown next to the marks) Port-Side Buoys have a cylindrical above-water appearance, like a can or drum floating on its axis. Commonly referred to as "CAN" buoys. Beacons -
            Port side beacons have square marks attached to them, with two shades of color and a reflective border.


            • #7
              Navigation and Maneuvering - Port Side Even Numbered Aids

              Starboard Side Even Numbered Aids

              Starboard aids are red in color, evenly numbered and will be on your right side as you travel upstream.

              Buoy numbers increase as you head upstream, and may have a red light.

              Starboard-side buoys have an above-water appearance like that of a cylinder topped with a cone, pointed end up.
              The cone may come to a point or be slightly rounded. Commonly referred to as "NUN" buoys.

              Starboard-side Beacons have triangular marks attached to them, with two shades of color and a reflective border.


              • #8
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                Navigation and Maneuvering - Aids to Navigation (Intercoastal Waterway)

                Aids to Navigation

                Intrercoastal Waterway

                For the sea buoys that delineate channels off the coast of the United States, and for the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), red is on the right (shore side) when proceeding clockwise around the U. S. from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, or proceeding north along the West Coast.

                ICW marks are further identified by a small yellow reflector at the bottom of the mark.