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Paddlers And The Navigation Rules

Old 03-13-2019, 05:50 AM
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Default Paddlers And The Navigation Rules

The cost of motor boats is a common topic of discussion here on The Hull Truth. The cost of motor boats has been outrunning the pace of inflation for quite some time now. They are EXPENSIVE! That has played a large role in the explosive growth of the paddle sports industry. With $500 I can be out the door with a brand new kayak and on my way down to the local launch to get into a little fishing or relaxing on the water. Most paddlers won't get any formal education and aren't likely to be exposed to any good safety or navigation rules information. 10 years ago human powered craft accounted for about 12% of the recreational boating fatalities in the country. Most paddlers won't get any formal education and aren't likely to be exposed to any good safety or navigation rules information. I will tell you what I am doing as a recreational boating safety (RBS) specialist to address this, then I'll post an article I penned for my 5000+ member kayak fishing Facebook group at their request.

The Coast Guard has long used the Auxiliary in our RBS mission. One of the programs we use them for is a "Dealer Visit" program. The idea is to establish liaison between dealers and the Coast Guard via the Auxiliary. The Auxiliary will keep the dealers well stocked with literature, keep them posted on when classes are available and such. I am an avid paddler and got to thinking about my visits to kayak dealers. I don't recall ever seeing any Coast Guard safety literature on their counters. I called a number of kayak dealers in the Eighth District and none were visited regularly by the Auxiliary. We are launching an aggressive dealer visit program for paddle sports dealers. We will keep them stocked with safety literature they can give out with each sale and that customers can pick up when they come in. During these visits I have asked the Auxiliarists to identify any clubs, groups or Facebook groups that they know of. We will use those groups as an outlet for direct messaging. Much like this forum, Facebook groups offer a lot of bang for the buck. With the below article I had an audience of up to 5000 members in my (Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club) alone. It took me about an hour to put together the article. When it comes to safety messaging, that's a lot of potential exposure for a little effort. Once the Auxiliary provides me with a list of all the other groups they know of, we'll be that much more efficient.

That's a snapshot of a little of what we are doing to try to reduce deaths in the paddle sports industry. Take a look at the article and fire away any questions you may have.
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Old 03-13-2019, 05:52 AM
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Well, Copy and Paste isn't cooperating, please stand by!
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Old 03-13-2019, 05:56 AM
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PADDLERS AND THE NAVIGATION RULESI want to take a moment to discuss the Navigation Rules as they apply to those of us who operate human powered craft. That runs the full gamut from canoes, to kayaks, to stand-up paddle boards to pedal craft and any other vessel that is powered by the human body.

As a 33 year member of the Coast Guard, someone who has been tested on the Navigation Rules more times than I can count, a recreational boater and avid kayaker I think I can provide a unique perspective and meaningful summary of The Rules that govern the navigational situations we most commonly find ourselves in. This is a link to The Navigation Rules https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=NavRulesAmalgamated or here if you prefer the book layout complete with images: https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/pdf/navRules/COMDTINST_M16672_2D_NavRules_as_published.pdf

So what do The Rules say about human powered craft? We are “vessels under oars” in the Navigation Rules. No special mention is made of pedal drive systems under the rules, but since pedal drives don’t fall into any other category of vessels, we are human powered and we look and maneuver like vessels under oars, all human powered craft will be considered vessels under oars. First and foremost, vessels under oars are imbued with NO special privileges. In fact in the “Steering and Sailing” part of the rules, vessels under oars are not specifically mentioned at all. We are simply “vessels” with all the attendant responsibilities.

Where paddlers (vessels under oars) are singled out under The Rules is in Rule 25 in the “Lights and Shapes” part. Rule 25 tells us that while we are underway (not anchored, made fast to the shore or aground) we can comply with The Rules in two ways. We can light ourselves as a sailing vessel under 7 meters in length, or we can keep an electric torch (flashlight) ready at hand. Sailing vessels less than 7 meters in length can use a combination light that contains red and green sidelights which display over an arc of 112.5 degrees each and a white stern light that displays over 135 degrees. Those lights may also be separate lights. If we don’t light ourselves as a sailing vessel, then we must have a white electric torch ready at hand and employ it early enough to prevent collision. An inland only option for vessels under oars is a single all around white light.

While we are on the subject of lights, let’s discuss anchor lights. Rule 30 applies here. When at anchor we are required to display a 360 degree white light. It should be high enough that it’s not obstructed by any part of our body. Rule 30 e provides some exceptions. When not in or near a narrow channel or where other vessels normally navigate we are not required to have an anchor light.

This is where things can get interesting for kayakers. Backing up to Rule 20 we find some very important language. “(b) The Rules concerning lights shall be complied with from sunset to sunrise, and during such times no other lights shall be exhibited, except such lights as cannot be mistaken for the lights specified in these Rules or do not impair their visibility or distinctive character, or interfere with the keeping of a proper look-out.” This section of The Rules answers a lot of our “what if” or “what about” questions.

If you see me paddling out before sunrise or after sunset, I will be wearing a high intensity white headlight in the off position. I will have clipped to the eye of one of my fishing rods a battery powered 360 steady (not flashing) blue LED glow stick light displaying over a 360 degree arc of visibility. How does my light configuration measure up against The Rules? The headlight is ready at hand and can be turned on without fumbling in the dark looking for it. It also leaves my hands free for maneuvering. The blue light is not flashing. It won’t be mistaken for a flashing blue law enforcement light. The steady blue light provides me with continuous illumination and should not be mistaken for any of the other lights prescribed in The Rules. Additionally, it is likely to contrast with any background lights in the area. I should probably say that I am not recommending my lighting package to you. There may be a state law somewhere that it does not comply with or you may find an enforcement officer who doesn’t interpret The Rules as I do. Whatever array you choose, examine it against The Rules. I very rarely operate at night. If I did, I’d equip my boat with red and green sidelights and a stern light as outlined in Rule 25.

That should put a wrap on lights. There are a few other rules I want to touch on. Kayaks in channels seem to be a sore spot with motor boat operators. Kayakers can use channels. When we do, we have a few burdens. Rule 9 a directs us to keep as far right in the channel as is safe and practicable. Rule 9 b says we cannot impede the passage of a vessel that can navigate only within that channel. 9 g tells us we should avoid anchoring in a channel. 9 d notes that if we cross a channel, we must do so in a way that does not impede a vessel operating within the channel. In general, I avoid channels as much as I practically can. One of the beauties of our small, shallow draft craft is that we can go just about anywhere. For me that means getting out of congested channels.
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Old 03-13-2019, 05:56 AM
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Hi Paul,

Will read the article once you post it.

I have a HUGE question on this very subject. Years ago, USCG had a memo or some one page document posted on their website, in PDF I believe. It discussed paddle / manually propelled watercraft and specifically touched upon the subject how they are the lowest of the low priority on the pecking order and need to give away to pretty much everyone else. That PDF disappeared (or I am unable to locate it) as of a couple years ago. I am wondering if you have a copy or know what I am talking about / what happened to it?

Thanks!
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Old 03-13-2019, 06:08 AM
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If every recreational hull user, whether boat, kayak, canoe, SUP or otherwise was required by their state to register and provide proof of training before usage, a lot of the poor choices we see users make on the waterways would disappear. Of course this would mean more government oversight, something most are loathe to support. It still confounds me how you can buy a boat and sally forth in most areas with zero knowledge, training or insurance, but planes and cars have lots of oversight for obvious reasons.

NC started requiring a mandatory safety class for anyone born after January 1, 1988, although how carefully it is checked and managed is debatable. At least it's a start.

https://www.boat-ed.com/northcarolin...er%20%2Bcourse
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Old 03-13-2019, 06:13 AM
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Simple. Make any necessary action to avoid any and all collisions. You are responsible for your wake . That's it.
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Old 03-13-2019, 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by mystery View Post
Hi Paul,

Will read the article once you post it.

I have a HUGE question on this very subject. Years ago, USCG had a memo or some one page document posted on their website, in PDF I believe. It discussed paddle / manually propelled watercraft and specifically touched upon the subject how they are the lowest of the low priority on the pecking order and need to give away to pretty much everyone else. That PDF disappeared (or I am unable to locate it) as of a couple years ago. I am wondering if you have a copy or know what I am talking about / what happened to it?

Thanks!
Rules 11 through 18 address the conduct of vessels in sight of one another. Rule 18 establishes the hierarchy. It does not specifically mention "vessels under oars." With that said, given how slow and small human powered craft are, I can't envision a navigational scenario in which adherence to the other rules would create conflict.

RULE 18

Responsibilities Between Vessels

Except where Rules 9, 10, and 13 otherwise require:

(a) A power-driven vessel underway shall keep out of the way of:

(i) a vessel not under command;

(ii) a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver;

(iii) a vessel engaged in fishing; and

(iv) a sailing vessel.

(b) A sailing vessel underway shall keep out of the way of:

(i) a vessel not under command;

(ii) a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver; and

(iii) a vessel engaged in fishing.

(c) A vessel engaged in fishing when underway shall, so far as possible,

keep out of the way of:

(i) a vessel not under command; and

(ii) a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver.

(d) A seaplane on the water shall, in general, keep well clear of all

vessels and avoid impeding their navigation. In circumstances, however,

where risk of collision exists, she shall comply with the Rules of

this Part.


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Old 03-13-2019, 06:33 AM
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Originally Posted by WeeKilt View Post
If every recreational hull user, whether boat, kayak, canoe, SUP or otherwise was required by their state to register and provide proof of training before usage, a lot of the poor choices we see users make on the waterways would disappear. Of course this would mean more government oversight, something most are loathe to support. It still confounds me how you can buy a boat and sally forth in most areas with zero knowledge, training or insurance, but planes and cars have lots of oversight for obvious reasons.

NC started requiring a mandatory safety class for anyone born after January 1, 1988, although how carefully it is checked and managed is debatable. At least it's a start.

https://www.boat-ed.com/northcarolin...er%20%2Bcourse
Vessels under 10 HP are exempt, so our paddlers will fall through the cracks there.
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Old 03-13-2019, 06:36 AM
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First thanks for posting this thread. Thereís a lot of missinformation and bad feelings on both sides of the paddle versus power, and we could add versus sail. Iím an Instructor Trainer in the American Canoe Association, meaning I train instructors who will go out and teach others to go out and behave in a safe and responsible manner. In addition to my paddle craft, Iím also a life long power boater.

Originally Posted by mystery View Post
I have a HUGE question on this very subject. Years ago, USCG had a memo or some one page document posted on their website, in PDF I believe. It discussed paddle / manually propelled watercraft and specifically touched upon the subject how they are the lowest of the low priority on the pecking order and need to give away to pretty much everyone else.
Thanks!
When it comes to priorities, I find it helpful for paddlers to think and behave as if they are low on pecking order. After all the consequences are big if we do something dumb. I reccomend end that paddlers aply three basic tactics:

1 Be as visible as possible ( bright boats, clothing PFDs, etc), but behave as if you are invisible.
2 Avoid other water users whenever possible. The corollary is, assume everyone else is both drunk and stupid. This last is not allways true, but you wonít go too far wrong with the assumption.
3 When you must interact with other water users, be intentional and have a plan. For example: in a channel crossing minimize your exposure by crossing as a group, at right angle, and from known point to known point.

The thing is this talk of priorities is one source of confusion. Yes, there is a hierarchy of vessels, but that proceeds from that veselís maneuverability.

This hierarchy is from a BoatUs publication on Rules of the Road.
  • Overtaken vessel (top priority)
  • Vessels not under command
  • Vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver
  • Vessels constrained by draft
  • Fishing vessels engaged in fishing, with gear deployed
  • Sailing vessels
  • Power driven vessels
The hierarchy starts with the assumption that the more maneuverable vessel must give way to the less maneuverable. This is sometimes misunderstood by paddlers who equate speed with maneuverability. This is the case, as paddlers we can operate outside the channel, so we are often more maneuverable.

With all of that said, the most important rule is that every captain must take action to prevent a collision. As paddlers, power Boaterís or sailers we are all responsible for this rule.


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Old 03-13-2019, 06:53 AM
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Originally Posted by fireisland1 View Post
Simple. Make any necessary action to avoid any and all collisions. You are responsible for your wake . That's it.
Let me present a scenario:

Small river, channel overdue for dredging, very small channel, one foot outside the channel you are aground with any boat drafting 3+ feet, strong currents

Kayakers all over the place, hanging out in middle of channel, blocking channel, holding onto bridge with narrow passageway to hang out

They can pretty much kayak anywhere on the river outside the channel since they have no draft, river is much much bigger than channel

I think the power boat is both a vessel restricted in ability to maneuver and is a vessel constrained by draft due to the circumstances I outlined above. Slow down or come to a stop, lose steering, Wander outside channel, go aground.

How does a motor boat navigate if they are restricted to the channel and kayakers are in their way?

That one page document I can no longer find was a great way to tell kayakers to stay out of the way. I kept printed copies on my boat to hand out LOL. I never used my horn before the rental place popped up and had to install a PA/hailer to yell at them for the years that I was docked in this area and wanted to use my boat. They had zero regard for anything. Despite how annoying they were, I rescued some renters that had a small child on-board a kayak that ended up out in open waters, unable to paddle back against wind/current, spoke little to no english, had no way to call for help, were overdue by hours, sun burnt, and dehydrated.

edit: I now understand that a vessel can only be restricted in ability to maneuver based upon the nature of work so that would not apply here but restricted in draft should still apply
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Last edited by mystery; 03-28-2019 at 04:58 AM.
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Old 03-13-2019, 06:58 AM
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tldr
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Old 03-13-2019, 07:00 AM
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Originally Posted by USCG Safe Boating D8 View Post
Vessels under 10 HP are exempt, so our paddlers will fall through the cracks there.
I did a poor job of making the point that if there were zero exemptions for anything used in water, it might help. As I said, at least NC is moving towards the right direction IMHO. I appreciate you starting the thread... and hopefully it will be less "lively" but just as informative as the last one on boarding!
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Old 03-13-2019, 07:04 AM
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Originally Posted by USCG Safe Boating D8 View Post
Rules 11 through 18 address the conduct of vessels in sight of one another. Rule 18 establishes the hierarchy. It does not specifically mention "vessels under oars." With that said, given how slow and small human powered craft are, I can't envision a navigational scenario in which adherence to the other rules would create conflict.

RULE 18

Responsibilities Between Vessels

Except where Rules 9, 10, and 13 otherwise require:

(a) A power-driven vessel underway shall keep out of the way of:

(i) a vessel not under command;

(ii) a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver;

(iii) a vessel engaged in fishing; and

(iv) a sailing vessel.

(b) A sailing vessel underway shall keep out of the way of:

(i) a vessel not under command;

(ii) a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver; and

(iii) a vessel engaged in fishing.

(c) A vessel engaged in fishing when underway shall, so far as possible,

keep out of the way of:

(i) a vessel not under command; and

(ii) a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver.

(d) A seaplane on the water shall, in general, keep well clear of all

vessels and avoid impeding their navigation. In circumstances, however,

where risk of collision exists, she shall comply with the Rules of

this Part.
Thanks but this one page document that was on the USCG website provided clear direction to paddlers. Any idea where it went or why it was removed?
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Old 03-13-2019, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by gofastsandman View Post
tldr

ikr?
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Old 03-13-2019, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by mystery View Post
Thanks but this one page document that was on the USCG website provided clear direction to paddlers. Any idea where it went or why it was removed?
I can't envision what you were talking about. I have seen some material from boating safety organizations that was flatly wrong in its interpretation of the Rules. That could have been one of them.

It is important to note that the ONLY place "vessels under oars" are distinguished in the Rules is in rule 25. Otherwise all the rules that apply to "vessel" apply. Rules that apply to "power driven" vessels do not.
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Old 03-13-2019, 07:58 AM
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Originally Posted by mystery View Post
Let me present a scenario:

Small river, channel overdue for dredging, very small channel, one foot outside the channel you are aground with any boat drafting 3+ feet, strong currents

Kayakers all over the place, hanging out in middle of channel, blocking channel, holding onto bridge with narrow passageway to hang out

They can pretty much kayak anywhere on the river outside the channel since they have no draft, river is much much bigger than channel

I think the power boat is both a vessel restricted in ability to maneuver and is a vessel constrained by draft due to the circumstances I outlined above. Slow down or come to a stop, lose steering, Wander outside channel, go aground.

How does a motor boat navigate if they are restricted to the channel and kayakers are in their way?

That one page document I can no longer find was a great way to tell kayakers to stay out of the way. I kept printed copies on my boat to hand out LOL. I never used my horn before the rental place popped up and had to install a PA/hailer to yell at them for the years that I was docked in this area and wanted to use my boat. They had zero regard for anything. Despite how annoying they were, I rescued some renters that had a small child on-board a kayak that ended up out in open waters, unable to paddle back against wind/current, spoke little to no english, had no way to call for help, were overdue by hours, sun burnt, and dehydrated.

Rule 9 The rules are very clear that vessels should be as close to the right hand side as possible. Read rule 9b. Vessels less than 20 meters cannot impede the passage of vessels that can safely move only within that narrow channel. I think that pretty well covers each of the scenarios you laid out.
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Old 03-13-2019, 08:10 AM
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Most of the issues I see are in the summer with the rental crowd. Come back into the harbor and they're everywhere, no one knows what the hell they're doing and most are too tired to make any logical decisions but since the hippie at the rental shack told them they have right-of-way, who cares? Drives me insane.
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Old 03-13-2019, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by USCG Safe Boating D8 View Post
ikr?
i'm sure you folks will write a succinct quide to
common sense safety and courtesy for folks just
getting wet so to speak.

I know I get about 30 seconds into my safety speech before

I see them drifting.

I start with the PDF/ ditch bag and then the radio.
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Old 03-13-2019, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by hbouldin1216 View Post
Most of the issues I see are in the summer with the rental crowd. Come back into the harbor and they're everywhere, no one knows what the hell they're doing and most are too tired to make any logical decisions but since the hippie at the rental shack told them they have right-of-way, who cares? Drives me insane.
I am going to tackle that issue. I see it too in Orange Beach when I vacation there with my motor boat. There is only one of me and there are hundreds of rental facilities, so I have to develop a strategy where I can employ others to effect my plan. I wish I could get all of the states to incorporate the Navigation Rules by reference. Legally they would adopt the rules EXACTLY as written. That would give state officers much more horsepower in dealing with some of these touchy navigation rules issues.
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Old 03-13-2019, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by mystery View Post
Let me present a scenario:

Small river, channel overdue for dredging, very small channel, one foot outside the channel you are aground with any boat drafting 3+ feet, strong currents

Kayakers all over the place, hanging out in middle of channel, blocking channel, holding onto bridge with narrow passageway to hang out

They can pretty much kayak anywhere on the river outside the channel since they have no draft, river is much much bigger than channel

I think the power boat is both a vessel restricted in ability to maneuver and is a vessel constrained by draft due to the circumstances I outlined above. Slow down or come to a stop, lose steering, Wander outside channel, go aground.

How does a motor boat navigate if they are restricted to the channel and kayakers are in their way?

That one page document I can no longer find was a great way to tell kayakers to stay out of the way. I kept printed copies on my boat to hand out LOL. I never used my horn before the rental place popped up and had to install a PA/hailer to yell at them for the years that I was docked in this area and wanted to use my boat. They had zero regard for anything. Despite how annoying they were, I rescued some renters that had a small child on-board a kayak that ended up out in open waters, unable to paddle back against wind/current, spoke little to no english, had no way to call for help, were overdue by hours, sun burnt, and dehydrated.
sorry wrong.

You can always maneuver even if it means all engine stop. You can be surrounded by those costco boaters. but you can't swat them like flies. if you drift into shallow waters to avoid collision, then that's what you have to do. You can start the maritime law suite later
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