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From the Boathouse: Prepare for the holiday boating season

November 15, 2013|By Mike Whitehead

Ahoy!

We have wonderful Christmas boat parades — cruising in harbors, lakes and rivers — to look forward to next month, and yes, boats being towed on trailers down a few main streets across the country.

I hope boaters have started to plan or maybe already begun decorating their vessels for this festive time of the year. I say vessels because I have seen all types of floating crafts, from surfboards, outriggers, canoes and kayaks to things that you'd never expect to be able to float — not to mention aqua cars in and around the parade routes.

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So I have some tips for being a skipper in a parade and a safety tip for navigational lights. The parades are closing in fast on my radar, so do not procrastinate, and keep safety in mind for the sake of your guests, other boaters and yourself.

If you are going to skipper in a boat parade, I recommend that you casually cruise the boat parade's route at night to familiarize yourself with the course and turns. At night your visibility is decreased and your daytime landmarks may not be visible.

Keep in mind a few things you need to do and look for when you are cruising the route as practice. First, observe the distances between any moorings or offshore objects to the shoreline, and how you can safely navigate between them. You need to note any unlit floating markers and all the lit channel markers' locations along the course. Also, find a spot where you can safely drop out of the parade if your boat starts to have mechanical problems or a guest becomes seasick from the wakes.

Can you stop your boat and hold position anywhere along the route? Close-quarter maneuvering is the name of the game when skippering in a parade, and remember to constantly look behind you before you turn. Lastly, speed kills, so you want to cruise slowly and safely, and always obey the directions from parade control or the Harbor Patrol.

On a technical note, most people do not know that unless you are actually participating in a sanctioned parade, it is not proper to display any external lights, such as Christmas lights, that distract from the navigational lights. The Harbor Patrol and Coast Guard are using their discretion in enforcing this regulation during December, so cruise safely.

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