when in a narrow channel where should you navigate your boat

when in a narrow channel where should you navigate your boat

when in a narrow channel where should you navigate your boat

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The rules for operating in a narrow channel are found in the Collision Regulations.

    • A vessel in a narrow channel must keep as far to the edge of the channel on the vessel’s starboard (right) side as is safe and practical.
    • If you are operating a power-driven vessel and are heading upstream, all power-driven vessels coming toward you from the opposite direction (heading downstream) have the right-of-way and you must give way.
    • If you are operating a vessel less than 20 metres (65.6 feet) in length, a sailing vessel, a vessel engaged in fishing, or a vessel crossing the channel, you may not get in the way of vessels that can only navigate within the channel (such as a large ship). Narrow passageways restrict movement for large vessels and make it dangerous for ships to alter their courses.
    • You must not anchor in a narrow channel, unless the circumstances require anchoring.
    • You must use the appropriate sound signals and use caution while operating in a narrow channel when:
      • Overtaking or being overtaken
      • Your view is obstructed such as when you approach a bend in the channel
    • If you are leaving a dock, slip, or tie-up mooring, you must give way to all approaching vessels.
when in a narrow channel where should you navigate your boat
when in a narrow channel where should you navigate your boat

Operating within narrow channels

When approaching a narrow channel, stay to the starboard side and, using a prolonged blast, announce your approach to

vessels that may be around the bend. When operating within a narrow channel, vessels must keep as near as is safe and

practical to the outer limit of a narrow channel on their starboard side.


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Sailing vessels and vessels less than 65 feet in length cannot block the passage of a vessel that must restrict its navigation to

a narrow channel (that is, recreational boaters traveling in a main channel should give way to larger vessel such as tugboats).

In order to comply with Homeland Security Measures, avoid anchoring in narrow channels and beneath bridges.

Operating near large vessels

When operating near a shipping lane or in areas of high boat traffic, smaller craft are not easily visible to larger vessels. Always keep a lookout for

larger vessels and be prepared to yield the right of way.

Specifically, always steer well clear of vessels in tow, docked ferries, or ferries in transit. Be mindful of cable ferries pulling other vessels—the cable

might be submerged and difficult to see. Do not get in between a ferry and its tow. Keep an ear out for one prolonged blast from a horn, as

this may be indicating a departing dock. Operators of smaller craft should attempt to travel in a group if at all possible, in order to be more visible.

when in a narrow channel where should you navigate your boat
when in a narrow channel where should you navigate your boat

Special Situations

When operating on the Great Lakes, Western Rivers and other designated rivers, the down bound boat (going with the current) has the right of

way over a boat going upstream. This is because a boat going upstream can maneuver better than a one going downstream.

Additionally, a boat crossing a designated river shall keep out of the way of boats ascending or descending the river.

If you approach a bend in a river around which you cannot see, sound one prolonged blast to alert boats approaching from the other side of the

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bend that you are there. If another boat is around the bend, it should answer with one prolonged blast. Conversely, if you hear

a prolonged blast as you approach the bend, answer with a prolonged blast.

5 Points to Remember When Transiting a Narrow Channel

1.Prevailing/ Expected Traffic: The density of traffic is obviously going to be a lot more as compared to that in open sea.

With lesser room and sizeable vessels, the risk of collision automatically increases exponentially, relatively speaking. The duty

officer must exercise due diligence while in transit, posting lookouts on the bridge wings as well as keeping a “hawkish” watch

on the radar as well. One must ensure that the vessel adheres to the Rules of the road in determining the actions that might have

to be taken as well as the rule that is to be stuck to when in a narrow channel. That is to say, Rule No. 9 of the ROR must be followed

for the safety of vessel as well to avoid any legal implications, if situation arises.

2. Bridge to VTS communication: One of the best practices to avoid any mishap while transiting a narrow channel is to have a

crystal clear communication setup with the VTS (vessel traffic services). They have a clear idea and system in place with regard to the

transit, of every vessel, in the zone of concern. Following their instructions and conveying the requirements of the vessel

ensures smooth operations on both ends and therefore, a smooth transit.

when in a narrow channel where should you navigate your boat
when in a narrow channel where should you navigate your boat

3. Bridge to Bridge communication: The VHF, for obvious reasons, stands to be an important tool in matters of communication in this aspect.

Its purpose, among many, is to clarify intent to surrounding vessels, especially to those that stand to pose a danger to the safe transit of your own vessel.

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Navigational aids such as the AIS and the radar(s) must be used to determine the identity, positioning, CPA etc. of the vessel in question and the same

must be promulgated to the target vessel(s). Usage of the SMCP if full clarity ensures that both parties understand intent very thoroughly and agrees

as well as understands the decided course of action.

4. Current: Current must always be accounted for in a narrow channel. Inevitable as it is, the ship’s precise positioning is greatly affected by it.

A head current (flowing against the movement of the vessel) reduces the vessel’s speed of transit while sustaining a maneuverable speed. A following

current on the other hand might bring in a bit of sluggishness. Points like these ought to be kept in check while transiting a narrow passage with regard to the current in play.

5. Plotting on the chart: All the navigational aids at hand such as the ECDIS, radar, AIS etc. are of no use if not for the human expertise.

It is very important to constantly plot, at very short intervals, the position of the vessel on the chart during transit. While concentrating on

the myriad other aspects while transiting a channel, oftentimes the duty officer might forget to plot the position of the vessel as per the

mention PPI. However, this is of utmost importance as it helps in deducing the available depth, obstructions and such similar aspects while in transit.



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