Sometimes even the most advanced of boaters can use a refresher on the rules.
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Read on to learn more about basic rules of boating, navigation techniques, night boating, VHF Radios, how to practice responsible boating and information on official training courses.
Rules of Boating
Throughout the years, boating rules and conventions have evolved which made them more complex and are now codified in the Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea.
In all circumstances where a collision is likely to occur, these rules determine which vessel has right of way and which must take avoiding action. The basic rules are that all boats approaching each other pass port to port (left to left) i.e. opposite to driving in Cayman. Power boats must always give way to sail boats and boats that are overtaking have to keep clear of other boats.
These are just the two basic rules, make sure to read up on more complex situations.
A GPS/ chart plotter is highly recommended, however, basic navigational knowledge is helpful. Get to know landmarks on the horizon, such as the airport, the dump, the Ritz-Carlton, Harbour House Marina and more.
Fixed or hand held GPS units can be purchased from either Harbour House Marina, Kirk Marine or Scotts Marine. They vary considerably in price depending on whether it is a fixed unit with a chart finder or a hand-held unit. Prices range from CI$550 to CI$1,500.
Whenever you are on your boat, insert any navigational aids as marks on your GPS. These can be channel markers for your canal, floating metal mooring buoys in the Sound or the Main Channel markers. This can help if you are in a situation with no visibility or out at night and discover a channel marker light is out.
The world is divided into two regions for navigation markers. Cayman is in Region B, which uses the convention that red port marks are on the left when exiting a channel. Remember this by using the mnemonic “Red Right Returning”. This is the opposite system to the UK and Europe! If a vessel is approaching from your port side, you will see a green light and have right of way. A vessel on your starboard side will show you its red light, so you have to give way.
The most dangerous situation is if you see both a red and a green light, this means you are looking at a head on collision. Make a distinct course change to starboard so the other vessel knows you are taking avoiding action. This information is very useful when boating at night. Remember: “if two lights you see ahead, turn to starboard, show your red.”
Boating at Night
Darkness distorts perceptions. Therefore, at night, winds seem stronger, waves bigger and it is difficult to tell if a light is 200 yards or two miles away. Out on the North Sound, it is impossible to see water depth or coral heads, especially on a moonless night.
At night, safe boating involves more common sense. Ensure your navigation lights are working (so other boats can see you!) and carry a powerful torch, at least a million candle power, so you will be able to pick out channel markers from 100 yards away. Use your GPS if you have one.
Although many channels have lights, be aware that markers can drift and if one marker light is not working, it is easy to mistake a working middle marker for a defunct outer marker.
VHF Radio Etiquette
If you are out of cell range in an emergency, use a VHF radio to call Port Security on channel 16.
Tell them your boat name, position/coordinates and nature of the problem and they will help. Although channel 16 is the emergency channel, it can carry routine calls to establish communication. Once contact has been made, the conversation must be switched to another working channel. Mayday calls on channel 16 are for life threatening emergencies only!
Boat owners should acquaint themselves with VHF etiquette in the case of an emergency. In order to have a VHF on board, the boat must have a Maritime ICT Licence and the operator must have the appropriate Maritime Radio Operators’ Certificate for the type of equipment on the vessel. In Cayman, the legal framework for VHF’s is a nightmare as few boats have a licence and virtually no operators have the required certificate. Visit ofreg.ky/ict/ship-radio for more information.
You don’t need to memorise the phonetic alphabet or say “roger that” at every opportunity. And, no matter how many times you have heard it in old movies, certainly don’t say “over and out”. “Over” means you have finished speaking and it is the other party’s turn. “Out” means you have finished the conversation. They are mutually exclusive.
Protecting the Environment
We live on a blue planet. Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is ocean and this makes up over 99% of living space. Practice responsible boating, kayaking, and other recreational activities on the water.
To ensure responsible boating, kayaking and other recreational activities on the water, be sure to never throw anything overboard, particularly fishing line and plastics and be aware of marine life in the waters around you. Giving fish a safe place to live and reproduce gives them time and space to replenish their numbers. Plastics that end up as ocean debris contribute to habitat destruction and entangle and kill tens of thousands of marine animals each year.
Cayman has many laws that help keep marine life, society, and the environment safe, as well as many ways you can help protect the marine environment. Acting responsibly on the water is essential for preserving the well-being and unspoiled beauty of Cayman’s seas and it ought to be a priority.
Ways you can act responsible:
- Report accidental hooking, injured or dead turtles, and marine conservation offences to (345) 949 8469.
- Reduce your use of plastics, recycle all of the rubbish you can, pick up garbage you find on the shore or at sea.
- Take advantage of marinas that provide facilities for recycling oil, aluminum, glass, plastic, and antifreeze.
- When diving please use one of the 365 public moorings provided by the DOE which are identified by the white buoy with yellow stripe. If you wish to keep your boat in the water for long periods you may contact DOE for a private mooring application.
Coral reefs are essential to the health of Cayman’s marine ecosystems. These colonies of fragile marine creatures are easily damaged by boat anchors and hulls, or, in fact, any human contact, so take precautions where you operate a vessel and anchor, and make sure that your children and visitors know not to touch or break off the coral. Take extra precautions when operating and anchoring a vessel, snorkelling or diving and ensure that your children and visitors know not to touch or break off the coral.
Recent studies suggest that most sunscreens contain damaging chemicals – oxybenzone and oxtinoxate – which, even in small doses, can stunt coral growth, cause coral bleaching and affect marine creatures like shrimp and clams. Instead use rash guards when you are in the water, avoid spray sunscreen which produces excess chemicals and use reef-friendly sunscreens.
Aside from helping beginners learn the ropes, boat training can help boost employability, give companies formal safety qualifications and even lower boat insurance. For private/non-commercial boat owners, training courses can often significantly lower your insurance costs – make sure to ask your insurer about discounted rates.Read More