You are legally responsible for the safety of those on your boat, any
damage your boat causes to other boats and property, and all others injured
by any damage you cause. Just like driving a car, if you don't know and
obey the rules, the fact that you didn't know them is not a valid defense.
Your common sense and good judgement in watercraft riding help avoid accidents and promote a positive image for the whole sport. Public perception of courteous and responsible boating habits is essential to keep the waterways open for all riders.
You share the areas you enjoy when riding with others and with nature. Your enjoyment includes a responsibility to treat other people, lands, waters, and wildlife with respect and courtesy.
Whenever and wherever you ride, think of yourself as the guest of those around you. Remember that the sound of your watercraft may be music to you, but it could be just noise to others. The splash of your wake can make waves that others won't enjoy. Avoid riding close to shoreline homes and waterfowl nesting areas, and keep a respectful distance from fishermen, other boaters, swimmers, and populated beaches. When travel in these areas is unavoidable, ride slowly and obey all laws.
When you ride responsibly, with respect and courtesy for others, you help ensure that our waterways stay open for the enjoyment of a variety of recreational opportunities.
Persons engaged in professional exhibitions, regattas, races, parades and other similar activities are exempted from these provisions. A violation of any of these provisions is an infraction.
When you allow someone to take the helm, make sure he or she knows the "rules of the road." When in close proximity of each other, vessels are said to be "privileged" or "burdened." The privileged vessel need not give way but has the duty to keep her course and speed. It is the duty of the burdened vessel to keep out of the way.
Generally, a sailing vessel is privileged in relation to a power boat. But this is not true if the power boat cannot safely navigate outside the channel in which she is cruising, nor is it true if the sailing vessel is overtaking another vessel. Overtaking vessels have a duty to keep out of the way of overtaken vessels. Whether privileged or burdened, it is the duty of every vessel to avoid collision.
No person under 16 years of age may operate a motorboat of more than 15 horsepower, except for a sailboat that does not exceed 30 feet in length or a dinghy used directly between a moored boat and the shore, or between two moored boats. The new law allows persons 12-15 years of age to operate motorboats of more than 15 horsepower or sailboats over 30 feet if supervised on board by a person at least 18 years of age. A violation of these provisions is an infraction. The law went into effect on January 1, 1998
Nothing in the rules of the road shall exonerate the operator of a vessel from the consequences of neglecting to comply with the inland rules of the road, or from neglecting any precaution which may be required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case.
In construing and complying with the inland rules of the road, due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from the rules of the road necessary to avoid immediate danger.
A new law, effective January 1, 1998, prohibits personal watercraft (PWC) operators from undertaking unsafe or reckless practices, including jumping another vessel’s wake within 100 feet of that vessel, operating at a rate of speed and proximity to another vessel so that the other operator is required to swerve to avoid collision, and “spraying down” any person or vessel in the water.
The new law also requires a person operating a PWC equipped with a lanyard switch to attach the lanyard to his or her person; prohibits, on a PWC equipped with a self-circling device, the disabling of such device; and prohibits nighttime operation (from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise), even if the PWC is equipped with proper navigational lights.
The law prescribes signals for vessels in sight of each other to indicate the intended course of a vessel when necessary for safe navigation.
Motorboats should not use cross signals, that is, answering one blast with two blasts or two blasts with one blast.
Whenever two vessels on the water meet one another, one vessel has the right-of-way; it is called the "stand-on" vessel. The vessel which does not have the right-of-way is called the "give-way" of "burdened" vessel.
The vessel with the right-of-way has the duty to continue its course and speed, except to avoid an immediate collision. When you maintain your direction and speed, the other vessel will be able to determine how best to avoid you.
The vessel which does not have the right-of-way has the duty to take positive and timely action to stay out of the way of the Stand-On vessel. Normally, you should not cross in front of the vessel with the right-of-way. You should slow down or change directions briefly and pass behind the other vessel. You should always move in such a way that the operator of the other vessel can see what you are doing.
There are three main situations that you may encounter with other vessels which could lead to a collision unless the Steering Rules are followed:
When Crossing: Every boat has a "Danger Zone" from straight in front (the bow) to past the middle of its right side. Like when meeting another car at a street intersection, the one on the right has the right of way. You must yield to boats in your Danger Zone. If you are the skipper of the Vessel A in the center of the diagram, you must keep out of the way of any boat that approaches you from any direction within the indicated Danger Zone, as you are the burdened craft. Likewise, boats approaching you from all other directions, except the meeting vessel, must keep clear of you.
When Meeting Port-to-port: Continue on course. The same holds true for meeting starboard-to-starboard.
When Meeting Head On: As in a car, both stay to your right and as far apart as practical. Each boat should turn to starboard and pass port-to-port.
When Overtaking Another Boat: The boat being overtaken is the privileged vessel. Only after signaling and receiving an acknowledgment can the overtaking boat pass. (Use on blast to pass on the right, and two blasts to pass on the left.
When Being Overtaken: Be ready for trouble when a power boat passes you in a narrow waterway. As the lead boat, which always has the right of way, stay on your side of the channel and maintain a steady speed so that the overtaking vessel can pass you safely. Use your radio to discuss this with the passing boat.
Power Boats must yield to Sailboats and boats being rowed or paddled, except in a narrow channel. Stay well clear of all large vessels.
The windward side shall be deemed to be the side opposite to that on which the mainsail is carried or, in the case of a square-rigged vessel, the side opposite to that on which the largest fore-and-aft sail is carried. The international rules for sailing are the same as the above.
The law also prescribes signals to identify vessels navigating in or near areas of restricted visibility.
Upon hearing a fog signal apparently forward of the beam, the operator should reduce speed to the minimum at which the boat can be kept on course, unless it has been determined by radar or other means that the risk of collision does not exist. If necessary, the operator should use reverse propulsion. In any event, navigate with extreme caution until any danger is over.
Sailboats or Vessels Not Under Command, Restricted in Ability to Maneuver, Towing or Pushing Another Vessel, or Engaged in Fishing with Nets or Trawling:
Boats at Anchor:
When navigating in narrow channels, you should keep to the right when it is safe and practical to do so. If the operator of a power-driven vessel is preparing to go around a bend that may obstruct the view of other vessels, the operator should sound a prolonged blast on the whistle (4 to 6 seconds). If another vessel is around the bend, it too should sound the whistle. Even if no reply is heard, however, the vessel should still proceed with caution. If you navigate such waters with your water vehicle, you will need to carry a portable air horn, available from local marine supply stores.
All vessels which are fishing with nets, lines or trawls are considered to be "fishing vessels" under the International Rules. Vessels with trolling lines are not considered fishing vessels. Fishing vessels have the right-of-way regardless of position. Fishing vessels cannot, however, impede the passage of other vessels in narrow channels.
Buoys and markers have an arrangement of shapes, colors, numbers and lights to show which side of the buoy a boater should pass on when navigating in a particular direction. The markings on these buoys are oriented from the perspective of being entered from seaward (the boater is going towards the port). This means that red buoys are passed on the starboard (right) side when proceeding from open water into port, and black buoys are to port (left) side. When navigating out of port, your position should be reversed; red buoys should be on the port side and black buoys to starboard.
Many bodies of water used by boaters are entirely within the boundaries of a particular state. The Uniform State Waterway Marking System has been devised for these waters. This system uses buoys and signs with distinctive shapes and colors to show regulatory or advisory information. These markers are white with black letters and orange borders. They signify speed zones, restricted areas, danger areas and general information.
Remember, markings may vary by geographic location. Always consult local boating authorities before riding in unfamiliar waters.
In some areas the remains of old piers extend from the riverbank. Some piles are exposed and other are broken off just below the surface. Their presence is sometimes indicated on the surface by swirls or eddies.
Six ferries are located in the Delta. Ferries operated by cables constitute a special hazard. When the ferry is underway, its cables are pulled taut and extend from both ends to opposite shores. Fatal accidents have occurred when vessels have attempted to pass over or under these cables while the ferry is in operation. However, after the ferry is secured at its landing and the cable is lowered, you may cross safely. Ferries underway, usually display flashing red or orange lights.
Floating plants engaged in dredging or construction may be at work anywhere in the Delta. At night, both the dredges and their pipelines are well lighted. Anchor buoys indicate the ends of the cables holding the dredge in place.
is very popular in the Delta. Unfortunately, a high number of boating fatalities or serious injuries occur as a result of improper or illegal skiing practices. California law requires at least two persons in a boat towing a skier, the operator and an observer of at least 12 years of age. A Coast Guard approved personal flotation device must be carried aboard the boat for each skier (as well as persons aboard the boat) unless the skier is wearing such a device. Skiing after sunset and before sunrise is prohibited. Never ski around blind bends; an approaching vessel may collide with or run over a skier. Ski in the mainstream, preferably in uncongested waterways. Collisions with debris, overhanging trees or falls in shallow water have caused serious injury.
Speed is restricted in many areas of the Delta. Most speed zones are marked by signs showing an orange circle around a black numeral. State law restricts speed to (and enforces) 5 miles per hour when passing landing floats to which boats are made fast or which are being used for the embarkation or discharge of passengers. Some local ordinances restrict speed to 5 miles per hour when passing ferries.
Speed is limited by law for certain conditions and areas. The maximum speed for motorboats within 100 feet of a bather (but not a water skier) and within 200 feet of a bathing beach, swimming float, diving platform or life line, passenger landing being used, or landing where boats are tied up is five miles per hour.
A safe speed should be maintained at all times so that: a) action can be taken to avoid collision and b) the boat can stop within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions.
In restricted visibility, motorboats should have the engines ready for immediate maneuvering. An operator should be prepared to stop the vessel within the space of half the distance of forward visibility.
can be extremely hazardous to small boats. Boatmen should always be alert for wakes from approaching vessels as well as the wake created by their vessels. Operators of vessels which create large wakes must respect the rights and safety of others. Passing ships create special hazards. A ship moving in a narrow channel temporarily draws water away from the shore, grounding some boats anchored close to shore. As soon as the ship passes, a following or stern wake brings water rushing back to shore. Boatman should never leave moored or beached craft unattended when ships are passing. In most cases, it is best to take the boat to deeper water when large ships approach. If the boat is grounded, do not attempt to protect it by standing between the boat and the shore. The return wake may force the boat over you causing injury.
During the winter when the water level is high and current strong, much debris is carried down river. This debris may lodge against docks, piles, bridges, and anchored boats or float in midstream. Debris may become grounded in shallow areas, and if submerged, may not be seen.
Take time to refuel saftely
Boats used at night, although required by law to exhibit proper lights, may not always do so. Boats anchored between sunset and sunrise are required to display a white light in the forward part of the vessel, visible in all directions for at least two miles (the all - around stern light on boats less then 26 feet in length will satisfy requirements). Anchoring in mid - channel or securing to a navigational aid is prohibited by law and creates an additional hazard whether the vessel is lighted or not. Anchoring too close to shore at night may find you grounded in the morning. Cruising at night should be done at slow speeds and caution should be given for hazards and other craft.
The Coast Guard and most county sheriffs are the primary search and rescue agencies in the Delta. However, the quickest remedy may be seeking the aid of a passing boat. Flares, smoke, blinking lights or waving arms have helped many. A marine radio equipped to handle Coast Guard frequencies will insure that assistance is on its way. Most enforcement agencies monitor Channel 16 (156.80 MHz). Some also monitor CB Channel 9. It is recommended that you leave a travel plan with a responsible person who will otify authorities if necessary. Include in the plan your launch site, destination, description of vessel, CF number and expected time of return. A sample float plan in included in the "ABC's of the Californis Boating Law", which is available free from the Department of Boating and Waterways.
Since the Delta is a popular recreational area, the waterways can become congested with other boaters, water-skiers, fisherman and swimmers. This makes it important to be courteous and watch out for others who are enjoying the Delta. Most of the land within the Delta is privately owned. Boaters should respect the rights of property owners and not trepass on private land. Guides and maps of the Delta will give the boater information on facilities available and locations of popular anchorage areas.
Before you begin a cruise, check the local "weather and sea" conditions. Detailed information can be obtained by tuning in to local radio stations or the National Weather Radio broadcasts on frequencies of 162.400, 162.475, and 162.550 MHz in areas where available, or by consulting local newspapers.
Gobernment charts showing known depths, channels, hazards, obstructions and aids to navigation on the major waterways in the Delta are available from nautical chart agents listed in the Yellow Pages under "maps" or "marine equipment".
18652 SC, San Francisco Bay to Antioch
18659, Mallard Island to Antioch
18661 SC, San Joaquin River (lower Sacramento River)
18662 SC, Sacramento (Andrus Island to Sacramento)
18664, Sacramento River (Sacramento to Colusa)
Alcohol is a contributing factor to many boating accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Studies indicate that the hazardous side-effects of alcohol are more pronounced when operating a boat. Alcohol combined with wind, boat noise, vibration, wave action, and sun-glare can have a tremendous adverse influence on your judgment and response time in boating. Do not drink and operate a boat.
Intoxicated Operation, First Conviction - Under a new law which went into effect on January 1, 1998, any person convicted of operating a motorboat under the influence of drugs or alcohol must be ordered by the court to take a boating safety course approved by the Department of Boating and Waterways.
Free or low-cost educational programs and publications are available through your local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Power Squadron, Department of Natural Resources, Red Cross, or local school districts, or call 1-800-368-5647 for the class nearest you.