Practicing the art of good seamanship is a talent that is developed over time by acquiring knowledge and skills. You must keep safety foremost in your mind when operating your boat. Do what you can to stay out of the way of other boats and always proceed at a safe speed.
The Rules of the Road provide consequences for any vessel owner, operator or crew who neglects to comply with the Rules.
It is your responsibility to act in a reasonable and prudent manner consistent with the ordinary practices of recreational boating. Safe speed means taking into consideration the current operating conditions and your own level of skill and experience.
To determine safe speed consider all of the following factors:
- visibility: is it clear, overcast, foggy?
- the density of boat traffic
- the maneuverability of your vessel. Be sure to consider stopping distance and turning ability in the prevailing conditions
- at night, does the presence of background light from shore affect your vision
- the state of wind, sea and current, and the proximity of navigational hazards
- your draft in relation to the available depth of water
Most specific speed regulations are local ordinances or state laws. Many states have speed and distance regulations that determine how close you can operate to other vessels, the shoreline or docking area, and swimming areas. For example, some state regulations require that you maintain a no-wake speed when within 250 feet of shore or when within 100 feet of another vessel. Be sure to check with state and local authorities to determine what regulations apply to you.