Category Archives: Rules of the Road

Informed Boater on Board

Make passenger safety briefings part of your predeparture routine.

Contributed by John Malatak, chief, Program Operations, U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division.

During an onboard emergency, precious seconds can be lost telling passengers where to locate and how to use vital safety equipment. If the boat operator (you) has been injured or otherwise put out of commission, the situation can suddenly turn life-threatening — too often with tragic results.

Two summers ago off the Massachusetts coast, the captain of a sailboat was knocked overboard by the boom while trying to get the sails down during a severe thunderstorm. His only passenger — a friend visiting from out of town — didn’t know how to radio for help. When he finally got through to the Coast Guard station, which was less than a half-mile away, he was unable to tell the dispatcher where he was. By the time the Coast Guard determined the vessel’s position and reached it with a patrol boat, it was too late. The captain had drowned because the only other person on board did not know what action to take in an emergency.

If you’re taking passengers along on your boat, make a full safety briefing part of your predeparture routine. It only takes a few minutes to show passengers where safety equipment is stored and how to use it, as well as the proper procedures for calling for emergency assistance. Consider what your passengers need to know in an emergency, especially if you are injured or fall overboard; then, customize the briefing to the unique characteristics of your boat.

Time spent briefing your passengers about onboard procedures and safety can make a huge difference in the event of a true emergency, when every second counts. Consider printing your safety orientation on a laminated card that can be posted in a prominent spot on your vessel. Also, label where the equipment is located on your boat. Read on to find out what your passengers need to know.

Safety Briefing Points:

1. Where life jackets are located and how to wear them properly. (The Coast Guard strongly suggests that all passengers wear their life jacket at all times while on board an open boat.) If your passengers are not wearing their life jacket, at a minimum have them put a life jacket on and size it properly. Then have them put a piece of masking tape on it and write their name on the tape. That way, in an emergency situation, they will have a prefitted life jacket that is easy to locate.  And remember, if you have children on board, they will need a proper-fitting, child-sized life jacket.

2. How to use the VHF marine radio and make a mayday distress call.

3. Where to find the EPIRB (emergency position-indicating radio beacon), survival equipment, visual distress signals, first-aid kit and fire extinguisher — and how to use them.

4. What to do if someone falls overboard and where to find the throw bags, life rings and life slings.

5. How to stop the boat safely and any unique features and/or idiosyncrasies of your boat, particularly if they might have an impact on passenger safety.

6. Where the anchor is located and how to stop and anchor the boat.

7. That they need to follow instructions exactly and get out of the way if something goes wrong and the boat operator has not asked for assistance. Some frightened people will stand rooted in place while chaos is going on around them. Knowing they should stay out of the way is important information.

8. How to use any installed global positioning system (GPS) equipment you may have on board.

Wrap up your briefing by answering any additional questions they may have. If any passengers are confused about boating safety procedures, the time for clarification is before you leave the dock.

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What is AIS?

Rule 9AIS is intended to help ships avoid collisions, as well as assisting port authorities to better control sea traffic. AIS transponders on board vessels include a GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver, which collects position and movement details. It includes also a VHF transmitter, which transmits periodically this information on two VHF channels (frequencies 161.975 MHz and 162.025 MHz – old VHF channels 87 & 88) and make this data available to the public domain. Other vessels or base stations are able to receive this information, process it using special software and display vessels locations on a chart plotter or on a computer.

If you like tracking ships or just like being nosey, you can use the Marine Traffic website to do just that. You can move around the map and zoom in on your area and see what commercial traffic is there, what direction it is moving and at what speed is it moving. If you live in an area where you often see commercial ships that you wonder about just look them up real time as they pass by. Use the following link to visit the Marine Traffice site.  http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/default.aspx?level0=100

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Why Do We Need America’s Waterway Watch?

Hope everyone had a great labor day weekend. The unofficial end of summer weekend unfortunately also brought up  a short week leading up to the 12th anniversary of probably the most devastating event in American’s history – 911. This was one of those events that almost everyone vividly remembers where they were and what they were doing when it happened.

Many American boaters have asked, “How can I help?” This is how — By participating in America’s Waterway Watch.

Home

HomePort Security

America’s coasts, rivers, bridges, tunnels, ports, ships, military bases, and waterside industries may be the terrorists’ next targets.

Waterway security is better than ever but with more than 95,000 miles of shoreline, more than 290,000 square miles of water and approximately 70 million recreational boats in the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard and local first responders can’t do the job alone.

Be aware of suspicious activity, particularly near the locations above, including…

  • People appearing to be engaged in surveillance of any kind (note taking, shooting video/photos, making sketches, or asking questions).
  • Unattended vessels or vehicles in unusual locations.
  • Lights flashing between boats.
  • Unusual diving activity.
  • Unusual number of people onboard.
  • Unusual night operations.
  • Recovering or tossing items into/onto the waterway or shoreline.
  • Operating in or passing through an area that does not typically have such activity.
  • Fishing/hunting in locations not typically used for those activities.
  • Missing fencing or lighting near sensitive locations.
  • Anchoring in an area not typically used for anchorage.
  • Transfer of people or things between ships or between ship and shore outside of port.
  • Anyone operating in an aggressive manner.
  • Individuals establishing businesses or roadside food stands near sensitive locations.
  • Small planes flying over critical locations.
  • People attempting to buy or rent fishing or recreational vessels with cash for short-term, undefined use.

To report suspicious activity call the National Response Center at 1-877-24WATCH.  For immediate danger to life or property, call 911

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America’s Waterway Watch History

In light of the numerous tributes to 911 yesterday we thought we should remind boaters of “America’s Waterway Watch.”  America’s Waterway Watch is similar to the Coast Watch program of World War II, which caused a group of citizen-volunteers who were mobilized as a uniformed, civilian component of the Coast Guard to scan the coast for U-boats and saboteurs attempting to infiltrate the shores of the United States. Today, America’s Waterway Watch goes one step further: It calls on ordinary citizens like you who spend much of their time on and around America’s waterways to assist in the War on Terrorism on the Domestic Front.

The enemy this nation faces today is unlike any other in our history. The operatives who may be attempting to enter the United States via our waterfront areas, whether as stowaways on ships entering our ports or on pleasure craft entering our marinas, do not wear a uniform or carry arms openly. They have chosen to attack us using unconventional warfare, and we  must be prepared to report events such as people entering our country illegally along the hundreds of miles of coastline, and people preparing to attack our critical infrastructure. America’s Waterway Watch calls on all port and waterfront users to report suspicious activity in and around the area where they live, work and play.

Who better than the families living along our shoreline to recognize when the behavior of visitors in and around their community is not consistent with what usually takes place in the neighborhood?

Young girl looking through binoculars

Who better than the longshoreman to know whether an individual who is loitering near a restricted area while video taping, taking photos, or making sketches is out of place and does not belong there?

Who better than a marina operator or a dock master to know if the crew that is not a “normal” customer is acting suspiciously?

And who better than recreational boaters, while traveling in familiar waters, to notice unusual and suspicious activities going on around them?

It is not the intent of America’s Waterway Watch to spread paranoia or to encourage spying on one another, and it is not a surveillance program. Instead, it is a simple deterrent to potential terrorist activity. The purpose of America’s Waterway Watch is to allow you and your fellow Americans who work and spend their leisure time on the waterways and waterfront to assist the federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies by being ever vigilant in recognizing possible threats and crimes on and around our waterways.

Many Americans like you have asked, “How can I help?” The answer is clear:

By participating in America’s Waterway Watch!

 To report suspicious activity call the National Response Center at 1-877-24WATCH.  For immediate danger to life or property, call 911.

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Hurricane Preparation – Part 3

Hurricane Preparation Checklist

Here is a list of the many things to consider before, during and after a hurricane. Some of the safety rules will make things easier for you during a hurricane. All are important and could help save your life and the lives of others. If local authorities recommend evacuation, you should leave! Their advice is based on knowledge of the strength of the storm and its potential for death and destruction.

I. BE PREPARED BEFORE THE HURRICANE

  • Check your marine insurance carefully to see if you are required to take some action in order to make the claim valid.
  • Check with your marina and find out their policy for handling hurricanes. In some States marinas can order all boats to leave.
  • If you are going to move your boat, determine where ahead of time.
  • Learn the storm surge history and elevation of your area.
  • Learn safe routes inland and make plans of where you will evacuate to.
  • Inventory the property on your boat…with video equipment if possible. Plan what will be removed from the boat and what must stay.
  • Keep all legal documents such as registration, insurance policy, marina rental agreement, radio license etc. in one easily moved, secure container. Make an inventory of documents, photos, and other irreplaceable articles that need to be taken in case of an evacuation.

II. WHEN A HURRICANE WATCH IS ISSUED (A WATCH means hurricane conditions pose a possible threat to the watch area within 36 hours)

  • Frequently monitor radio, TV, NOAA Weather Radio, or hurricane Hotline telephone numbers for official bulletins of the storm’s progress.
  • Review needs and working condition of emergency equipment, such as first aid kit, flashlights, battery-powered radios.
  • Move boats on trailers close to house. Weigh them down. Lash securely to trailer and use tie-downs to anchor trailer to ground or house. Let air out of trailer tires.
  • Anchored boats should be tied high, using a half hitch knot (loop knots slip). Anchor rigging should consist of new or good line and chain.
  • Boats docked at marinas should have extra lines attached. Line lengths should be sufficient to take care of excessive high water.
  • Once your boat is secured, leave it and don’t return once the wind and waves are up.
  • Fuel your car. (During Hurricane Season never let your fuel gage fall below half)
  • Stock up on canned provisions
  • Check supplies of special medicines and drugs.
  • Secure lawn furniture and other loose material outdoors.
  • Tape, board, or shutter windows to prevent shattering.
  • Wedge sliding glass doors to prevent their lifting from their tracks.

III. WHEN A HURRICANE WARNING IS ISSUED (A WARNING means sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are expected in the warning area within 24 hours or less.)

  • Closely monitor radio, TV, NOAA Weather Radio, or hurricane Hotline telephone numbers for official bulletins.
  • Follow instructions issued by local officials. LEAVE IMMEDIATELY IF ORDERED TO DO SO.
  • If staying home, in a sturdy structure on high ground: (plan to evacuate if you live on the coastline or on an offshore island, or live near a river or in a flood plain)
  • Board up garage and porch doors.
  • Move valuables to upper floors.
  • Bring pets in.
  • Fill containers (bathtubs) with several days supply of drinking water. (one gallon per person per day)
  • Turn up refrigerator to maximum cold and don’t open unless necessary.
  • Use phone only for emergencies.
  • Stay indoors on the downwind side of the house away from windows.
  • Beware of the eye of the hurricane. Don’t be lured by the calm.
  • Bring in small hand tools to aid you should your home be damaged during the storm.
  • If you are evacuating: (always evacuate if you live in a mobile home)
  • Leave areas which might be affected by storm tide or a stream flooding.
  • Leave early – in daylight if possible.
  • Shut off water and electricity at main stations.
  • Take small valuables and papers, but travel light.
  • Persons needing special foods or medicines should take them with them.
  • Take sufficient money in small bills to defray certain expenses you may incur.
  • Leave food and water for pets (shelters will not take your pets).
  • Lock up house.
  • Notify family members or friends outside of the warned area of your evacuation plans.
  • Drive carefully to designated shelter or other evacuation location using recommended evacuation routes.

IV. AFTER THE STORM PASSES

  • Stay in your protected area until announcements are made on the radio or TV that the dangerous winds have passed.
  • Drive carefully; watch for dangling electrical wires, undermined roads, and flooded low spots.
  • Report broken or damaged water, sewer, and electrical lines.
  • Use caution re-entering your home.
  • Check for gas leaks.
  • Check food and water for spoilage.
  • If your home has structural damage, do not enter until it is checked by building officials.

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Collision – Allision –Tomatoe – Tomahto

You know you’re getting old when words you once knew seem new. I know I had heard the word allision before but couldn’t quite place it. According to Maritime Law, allision is the running of one vessel against another. It is distinguished from collision in that collision means the running of two vessels against each other. This latter term, collision, is frequently used for allision although grammatically in error.

The following article from the Coast Guard News contained one of those words.

KEY WEST, Fla. — The Coast Guard responded to an allision between two Carnival Cruise Line ships in the Port of Key West.

While the minor crash caused some cosmetic damage to both vessels, no one was injured and there was no pollution or structural damage reported.

The Carnival Imagination was docked at the port and the Carnival Fantasy was docking when the vessels struck stern to stern, the Coast Guard said.

No injuries, pollution or structural damage occurred during the incident.

Alcohol and drug testings have been conducted on personnel in safety-sensitive positions in accordance with Coast Guard policy.

The Coast Guard is investigating the incident.

The above photo shows the extent of the “cosmetic’ damage to one of  the Carnival Line Ships.

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Virginia Boating Safety Course Deadline

Effective today boat operators 40 years old or younger in Virginia are required to complete a boating safety course.

The latest phase of the state’s Boating Safety Education Law kicks in today July 1, requiring all motorboat operators age 40 or younger to carry proof of completion of an approved boating safety education course. All personal watercraft operators and boat operators age 30 or younger have been required to complete a course since July 2012.

The regulations apply to those operating a boat with a motor of 10 horsepower or greater, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The rules do not apply to unpowered vessels such as canoes and kayaks.

Boaters wishing to obtain a certificate of completion can take advantage of classroom courses offered around the area. They can also complete a course online or by mail. Classroom courses typically take a full day to complete. Online courses can be taken over the course of days or weeks, but typically take three hours to complete.

A completion certificate must be carried with the operator while on the water.

To take a course online go to http://boatingbasicsonline.com

The safety course requirement will eventually affect all boaters. Boaters younger than 45 must complete a course before July 1, 2014, and those younger than 50 by July 1, 2015. All boaters, regardless of age, must complete a course before July 1, 2016.

For more information, visit http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/boating.

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