Anyone who wants to be out on the water safely should be taking the boater exam. With this exam, you learn about who has the right of way on a lake, river or at sea. You learn about emergency procedures and how to avoid collisions.
Though the course and exam is short, it has excellent information that boaters can use to stay safe. For example, those on power boats (and other kinds of vessels) should know which vessel is the give-way vessel and which is the stand-on vessel.
What is a give-way vessel?
The give-way vessel is the vessel that is meant to change its route to avoid a collision. For example, a boat approaching another’s stern should give way and pass the boat ahead of it with caution.
If a boat approaches from the starboard side, then that starboard vessel needs to change course. Similarly, a boat approaching from the port side maintains its path, so that the starboard vessel can turn and pass it.
Even though these are general rules, you need to know that there are other vessels that these don’t apply to. For example:
- Rowboats, canoes and sailing vessels typically have the right of way instead of power boats
- Vessels that are damaged or that have no power generally have the right of way over power boats
A good rule of thumb to remember is that the boat with less maneuverability should have the right of way. It may be impossible for that boat to get out of the way, so the boat with better maneuverability should be turned or change its direction.
Understanding the correct navigation techniques is essential in preventing power boat crashes and other kinds of collisions. You should also be aware that there are special rules for power-driven vessels. When power-driven vessels approach one another, the boat that is overtaking the other from the stern must give way.
Remember, you also need to use sound signals on the water. If you’re planning to pass on a boat’s starboard side, you should blow the horn once. Blow two blasts if you’ll be heading to the port side. This helps avoid confusion or an accidental collision if the lead boat decides to change its course.
Power boats are fun and fast, but without the right rules, they can be involved in serious collisions. Be cautious out on the water and be prepared to give way when necessary.