With increasing boat traffic on the Kuskokwim River and some reports of near collision in narrow channels such as Church Slough. We thought it would be good to review some of the rules for safe boating. The following is based on U.S. Coast Guard Regulations and the respectful way People have been traveling on the Kuskokwim for gnerations.
- VESSEL – just about anything that floats and was made for carrying people
- PORT – left side of boat when you’re sitting in it – symbolized by a RED light at night
- STARBOARD – right side when you’re sitting in it – symbolized by a GREEN light at night
- STERN – back of the boat – often represented by a WHITE light – this could also mean a boat that is anchored and not moving
- BOW – the front of the boat
- BEAM – the width of a boat at its widest
- GIVE WAY VESSEL – the boat that must change its course and or speed
- STAND ON VESSEL – the boat that should stay on its course and speed
- OVERTAKING – catching up to and passing another boat that is traveling in the same direction as your boat
- CROSSING – when one boat is crossing in front of another boat
- MEETING – when two boats traveling in opposite directions meet – like in Church Slough
- RIGHT OF WAY – the boat that should keep going the way it is while another boat should change its course or slow down
- GENERAL RULES FOR BOATING SAFETY ON RIVERS & LAKES:
RIGHT OF WAY:
Generally the boat with the least amount of control has the right-of-way. There is a recognized order for this:
- A boat being overtaken – many times they don’t know you are coming up behind them
- A boat drifting without power – like a broken down boat or a boat with nobody in it
- A boat that has a harder time steering – like a boat pushing a log raft, towing another boat or a canoe/kayak
- A boat that needs deeper water than your boat – like a large boat or barge
- A boat that is fishing – like a boat drifting with a net or even checking a set net
- A sailing boat – not many on the Kuskokwim but every once in a while we see one
Any boat overtaking any other boat must keep out the way of the boat being overtaken. The faster boat catching up to the slower boat is the give-way vessel and the slower one is the stand-on vessel. Whenever possible the faster boat should pass on the port side of the slower boat.
Both International and Inland Rules state that when two power-driven vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision, the vessel which has the other on her starboard side (the give-way vessel) must keep out of the way.
As the give-way vessel it is your duty to avoid a collision. Typically, this means you must slow down or change direction to cross behind the other vessel (the stand-on vessel).
Each vessel in a meeting situation must change direction to starboard so that each will pass on the port side of the other. This is called “passing port to port”.
At night, you will recognize a head-on meeting situation if you see both red and green side lights at the same time. If possible you should turn to your right to show your port side (red light).
OPERATING IN A NARROW CHANNEL (like Church Slough):
First and foremost, you have to avoid larger vessels that can only travel in a channel. Even if your vessel is operating under the rules otherwise, you must give way to a boat that could potentially run aground or get into a collision if they left the channel.
Try and operate on the right edge of the channel. Be extra cautious if you come to a bend in the waterway, and can’t see traffic coming towards you.
Make sure to wear a life jacket and please don’t let anyone travel that has been drinking.
BSAR wishes everyone along the Yukon and Kuskokwim a safe fall traveling and hunting season.