Knowing how to maneuver your vessel is not only important for safety but good seamanship. It makes it a much more pleasant experience for all involved if you know boat ed and practice boating etiquette rules and other sailors appreciate it as well. Not to mention you could get into a lot of trouble if you don’t.
Keep in mind that navigating in one boat will not be the same in another boat. Go slowly, cautiously and practice in calm waters before trying to steer a new boat. Because boats are variable, do your research on the model beforehand. There are many technical issues to consider when boating.
These tips will cover the basics of how to maneuver close to another boat, dock, undock and get past bridges. There are many other techniques to consider as you advance in boating. However, the greatest way to learn boating is by getting real-life experience.
Maneuvering Close to Docks
Safe boat docking requires awareness of ones environment. Always look out for boats that may be coming from the direction you want to turn. Give them plenty of space to get out before you enter that space, since docks do not usually allow two boats to pass at a time. You may also not have a lot of reaction time when steering. Whenever you turn in a tight space, start the turn early so that you have space to plan your next moves.
Use prevailing winds to your advantage when docking. They can help you to sail more slowly and maneuver more easily. You can also increase precision by coming into dock at an angle and slowing your speed. The boat will keep moving, so gently turn into the space enough so the boat does not continue to turn once you are trying to settle in. There are many ways to dock, so do whatever works for you. Never rush or overpower this process, as you risk hitting other boats and the pier.
This is something that takes practice to master. Whenever you find yourself turned or pushed by the wind, stay calm. Do your best to straighten out the boat by applying a small amount of force in turning. Go slowly until you find your natural balance.
As with docking you want to consider both the traffic and winds when undocking. Cast off your lines and head out at an angle, moving slowly in the direction you want to go. Once clear cast off your spring line and store all your lines in a secure place. Then turn safety out of the dock and out of traffic.
Draw Bridge Manners
Nautical charts a good resource for notifying you of bridges in the area. Pay attention to the requirements of each bridge to determine if your boat will fit. Some bridges also have scheduled opening times. This is why it is a good idea to plan out your journey ahead of time. Determine what routes are passable and when they open.
Pay attention to signs and signals when approaching a draw bridge. Many bridges have measurements on the water level, so you can tell whether you can pass through or not. You can also contact bridge controllers by either radio (channel 16, 13 or 9 typically) or sound signals. The most common and polite method is by radio.
To signal your intention to enter, you would make one short horn blast and then a second, louder one. They will either respond with the same signal or blast their own horn five times to indicate a stop is necessary. If you are given the stop signal blast your horn five times as well to acknowledge them. Be sure to thank them for their assistance on your way out either verbally or by waveing.