Marina Etiquette: Entering the Channel

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The Rules of the Road are based on the broad reasoning that the more maneuverable vessel must give way to the less maneuverable vessel. In the case of Limestone Marina, this generally means that boats entering the marina should give-way to boats leaving it. It may seem like common sense to those that have been around the marina for many years, but dangerous situations have occurred when entering vessels have assumed they will have plenty of room in the channel to pass side-by-side when they encounter a beamy cruiser or sail boat constrained by her draft, which must proceed directly down the middle, or risk running aground. The situation most often occurs when an up-stream bound boat “cuts the corner” and enters the channel without checking to see if there is any outbound traffic. It is particularly dangerous when, almost unbelievably, it happens after dark. And it does.

Why is the outbound boat considered the stand-on vessel in this situation? The outbound boat cannot see what is happening out in the river, except right in front of the channel, so because she cannot see around the corner, must make a commitment to enter the channel without full knowledge of the traffic outside of her range of visibility. Meanwhile boats out in the river have plenty of “sea room” in which to maneuver while waiting for the exiting craft to clear the channel, and most importantly check out the channel traffic before making the commitment to enter it. The only choice left for the deep draft vessel leaving the marina is to back into the small turning basin, which on busy days may have other vessels to contend with waiting to enter the channel, or hold her course right down the middle and hope for the best, so she is the less maneuverable vessel.

It’s really not that hard to line up with the entrance and make sure the channel is clear, or conditions are safe to pass side-by-side, before entering. Besides, being out on the river is fun, so extend your enjoyment by a minute or two and get in the habit of good Limestone Marina etiquette. Always check for outbound traffic before entering.