The Navigational Rules of the Road
(Rule 6) states that you need to set a safe speed in all conditions of
visibility. This obviously does not mean the same “safe speed” applies in good
as well as restricted visibility. The first requirement of this rule is to
consider what the state of visibility is because safe speed in any condition
must be closely related to the immediate circumstances and conditions at hand.
A boat at high speed has a large amount of force. With an untrained
operator, this force can be dangerous.
The following different factors
should be considered to determine safe speed:
- Heavy seas: Slow down as winds and seas increase; the boat
will handle more easily. Pounding or becoming airborne fatigues the
hull and could injure your crew or cause them chronic body aches and
- Traffic density: Do not use high speed in high traffic density
areas. A safe speed allows response to developing situations and
minimizes risk of collision, not only with the nearest approaching vessel,
but with others around it.
- Visibility: If conditions make it difficult to see, slow
down. Fog, rain, and snow are obvious limits to visibility, but
there are others. Visible features and obstructions (river bends,
piers, bridges and causeways), along with heavy vessel traffic, can limit
the view of “the big picture.” Darkness or steering directly into the sun
lessens ability to see objects or judge distances. Prevent spray on
the windscreen (particularly salt spray or freezing spray) as much as
possible and clean it regularly. Spray build-up on the windscreen is
particularly hazardous in darkness or when you experience glare.
Besides Heavy Seas, Traffic Density,
and Visibility, there are additional external factors that will have an effect
on your vessels ability to run at a safe speed.
In shallow water, the bottom has an
effect on the movement of the vessel. Slow down in shallow water.
In extremely shallow water, the vessel’s stern tends to “squat” and actually
moves closer to the bottom.
In narrow channels and canals, a
vessel moving through the water will cause the “wedge” of water between the bow
and the nearer bank to build up higher than on the other side. This bank
cushion tends to push the bow away from the edge of the channel.
When meeting another vessel close
aboard, bow cushion and stern suction occur between the vessels much the same
as bank cushion and suction. Helm corrections should be used to
compensate. As both vessels move through the water, the combined effect
is greater than what a single vessel encounters from bank interaction.
Caution should be used so the bow does not veer too far from the intended track
and the stern swings into the path of the other vessel.
All vessels are responsible for
their wake and any injury or damage it might cause. Only a poorly trained
or ignorant boat operator trails a large wake through a mooring area or
shallows, tossing vessels and straining moorings. A large, unnecessary wake,
particularly in enclosed waters or near other smaller vessels, is unnecessary
and can cause damage or injure others.
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