Navigational Rules and Aids

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Navigational Rules

Operating a personal watercraft in some ways is a lot like driving a vehicle, because you must follow rules of the road and obey signs. But operating a personal watercraft is also different from driving a car or motorcycle, because when you release the personal watercraft's throttle, you lose steering ability and you have no brakes to help you stop.

Meeting head-on

When two boats meet head-on, each must keep to the right (starboard).

Crossing

When crossing, the boat to the right has the right-of-way, just like a car at an intersection, and is the stand-on vessel. The stand-on vessel continues on a steady course and speed. The give-way vessel should slow and turn to starboard if necessary, and carefully pass the stand-on vessel astern (behind it).

Overtaking another boat

When you overtake another boat from behind (the stern), you are the give-way vessel. The boat being overtaken should hold course and speed. Pass with care on the right or left of the stand-on vessel.

Right-of-way

Other boats, such as commercial fishing boats, deep-draft ships, sailboats, or other non-motorized vessels cannot maneuver as well and have the right-of-way over personal watercraft.

Head-On

Head-On

Stand-On

Crossing

Give-Way

Crossing

Stand-On

Give-Way

Stand-On

Overtaking

Give-Way

Stand-On

Overtaking

Personal Watercraft Rules of the Road

Follow the basic rules of the road except when you need to depart from them to avoid a collision.

^ Avoid ship channels when possible. Cross ship channels quickly when you can't avoid them.

^ Always watch for all boat traffic.

^ Know that five or more short sound blasts mean danger or emergency.

^ Know the charts for the waterways in which you operate your personal watercraft. Know the likely hazards and high traffic areas.

^ Keep a wide distance between your personal watercraft and other boats or persons in the water.

Navigational Aids

Buoys, the primary waterway marking system, have distinctive shapes, numbers, lights, and sounds to guide boaters on a safe course.

The six most important markers to know are:

Information

Obstru ction

Controlled Area

NO WAKE

Diver Down

Signs also mark waterways. When operating a personal watercraft, the most important signs to recognize are the ones that read "NO WAKE" and "5 MPH." ALL boaters must obey these signs.

See Chapter 2 for more details on Navigational Rules and Aids.

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