I’ve noticed in the past couple of days, on my early morning walk, a phenomena that I usually remind boaters of in the spring and fall. However, with the high temperatures, even before sunrise, fog and haze are starting to develop.
Operating a boat when visibility is restricted increases the risk of hitting fixed objects in the water and colliding with other boats. That’s why it’s important to lessen your risk by taking preventive action that includes slowing to a safe speed, turning on your navigation lights and sounding the appropriate sound signals for your vessel type, as required by the Navigation Rules, available online through the Coast Guard Navigation Center at navcen.uscg.gov. It is also important to post responsible lookouts who will use all of their senses to determine what lies ahead in time to avoid an accident. A lookout should scan 360 degrees, as accidents in restricted visibility can occur when a vessel is overtaken from behind.
In addition to navigation lights, the Navigation Rules require all vessels to carry sound-producing devices for use during meeting, crossing and overtaking situations. Sound signals are also required during periods of reduced visibility to make other boaters in the area aware of your relative position and the status of your vessel; for example, a power-driven vessel under way and making way is required to sound one prolonged blast at intervals not to exceed two minutes.
It is easy to get lost or disoriented when visibility is limited? Things look very different which can be stressful for inexperienced boat operators. Expect the unexpected. Practice good risk assessment when deciding whether to boat in restricted visibility. Make sure your required safety equipment is on board, including visual distress signals, and that everyone is wearing a life jacket. Take a boating safety course and educate yourself on best practices for boating at night.
Boating in the Fog
Fog can develop very quickly and brings an increased risk of collision. In fog, if other boats can’t see you they need to hear you. If you see fog moving in, do the following before your visibility becomes seriously reduced:
- Fix your position on a chart or mark it on an electronic plotter.
- Reduce your speed to the point where you can stop your vessel in half the distance you can actually see.
- Turn on your navigation lights.
- Instruct any passengers to help you keep watch — by sight, sound and smell preferably in the bow.
- Begin sounding one prolonged blast on your horn (four to six seconds) every two minutes while under way and making way, and two prolonged blasts every two minutes when under way and stopped. Continue until the fog lifts and visibility significantly improves.