December 2014 Refresher

Boating Refresher on Thurmond Lake
-contributed by P/C SEO Chuck Gresham, JN

The tagline on the USPS home webpage is ‘Come for the boating education ….. stay for the friends’ which emphasizes our strong boating education emphasis and our love of fellowship. Thus we are advertising ourselves as knowledgeable about safe boating practices and our boating practices on Thurmond Lake should reflect this. However during the past few years, I have observed our members piloting their boats in a fashion that does not reflect well on the Squadron as an example of safe boating. These observations were the inspiration for articles that remind us of how to safely and legally operate our boats on Thurmond Lake. The focus of the articles will be the safe operation of the boat, rather than legalities of boat operation.

One of the first lessons we learned in America’s Boating Course are the Nautical Rules of the Road, which define which vessel has the right of way (the Stand-on vessel) and which must yield (the Give-way vessel). On Thurmond Lake we probably will not see vessels not under command, vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver, vessels constrained by draft nor vessels engaged in fishing by pulling nets. These, in order, are the highest Stand-on vessels. Nor will we likely see the most Give-way vessel, a seaplane. This leaves what we will likely see on the lake; sail boats and power-driven boats. As you remember, a boat under sail is the Stand-on vessel in relation to a power-driven vessel, thus the power-driven boat adjusts course and/or speed to avoid a collision.

Two power-driven boats can meet each other in one of three situations. One boat can approach another from the stern and overtake the lead boat. In this case, the boat overtaking the leading boat is the Give-way vessel and the lead boat is the Stand-on vessel which should maintain course and speed. If two power-driven boats are approaching each other head-on, then both vessels alter course to starboard and pass port-to-port. Finally, if another boat is approaching you in an arc from your bow to your starboard beam (90o starboard of your direction of travel), then you are the Give-way vessel and must alter your course and speed to avoid a collision.

What about human-powered vessels like kayaks, rowboats and canoes? Both common sense and the civil law concept of “negligent operation” can be used to make the correct decision. Although kayaks and canoes are highly maneuverable, they are slow and thus should be passed either quite slowly or at a large distance.

Although boats pulling children on tubes or water skis are motor-driven, they should not be followed because you never know the instant that a child will fall off the tube or ski. When I am pulling a skier and someone approaches me from the stern, I steer to the starboard and get closer to the shore to get away from the following boat.

Another vessel I pass at a great distance is the trolling fisherman. True, they are a motor-driven vessel, but your respect for their form of recreation should tell you to go by them at a great distance. Also be mindful that striper fishermen troll with shallow lines extending well behind the boat and some of them are sensitive about another boat cutting the lines by passing behind too close.
When in doubt, use common sense, and you will probably be right.