NavCal Marine Services LLC News - Boating Safety

Clubs and Organizations

March 18, 2015

Now that it is finally warming up, many thoughts turn to boating and we hope "Safe Boating". Trained and licensed professional mariners are obviously very concerned about boating safety. Two recent articles in our professional journals1, 2 have addresses this issue. The National Transportation Safety Board is also concerned and apparently studying the issue of untrained and unlicensed recreational boating operators operating adjacent to commercial vessels. Many states, including Tennessee, have laws about recreational boating licenses.
Those of us who obtained a Master's (captain's) license probably learned the order of precedence in the right of way rules contained in Chapter 18 of Federal law "NAVIGATION RULES" (COMDTINST M16672.2B) by memorizing "New Reels Catch Fish So Purchase Some". This memory aid refers to the "Steering and Sailing Rules" that apply to "Responsibilities Between Vessels" and help us remember the highest to lowest priority:

New = Not under command as anchored or adrift with dead engine
Reels = Restricted in ability to maneuver as in towing
Catch = Constrained by her draft
Fish = Fishing with nets or trawls, not just trolling
So = Sailing without any motor running
Purchase = Power driven vessel
Some = Sea plane

Non-power driven vessels like rowboats, canoes, kayaks and paddle boards are not mentioned in the Federal rules but are generally assumed to be similar to sailboats3. Some people wrongly believe this gives them right of way over all power driven vessels. Way before we even get to Rule 18, Federal Rule 9(b) states: "A vessel 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 or fairway". This is generally referred to as the gross tonnage rule and the fine for impeding a larger vessel is $5,000 or more. Many recreational boaters are apparently not aware of this Federal law requiring them to keep clear of larger vessels. A jet ski or kayak passing in front of a commercial vessel that may take up to several thousand feet to stop is not only very dangerous but also punishable under Federal law.

Please take a United States Power Squadron, Coast Guard Auxiliary or TWRA boating safety course and lets all enjoy a safe and fun boating season.  The more you know the more relaxing and enjoyable recreational boating can be. Power Squadron boating courses can take you from the basics all the way through celestial navigation (course now going on). A course completion certificate in boating safety can even reduce your vessel insurance rates. Insurance companies know a trained boater is a much safer boater. You should also get a free vessel safety check to make sure your boat is properly equipped and safe. See, any local Coast Guard Auxiliary unit or TWRA for more information.