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Boat Tips: Keeping a Proper Lookout

By July 7, 2010

I can't think of anything more important to boating safety than keeping our eyes on the water for possible danger.  When boating, danger can come from many different directions,  which is why maintaining a proper lookout is crucial to boating safely.  In fact, maintaining a proper lookout is one of the Coast Guard Navigation Rules.

In the Steering and Sailing Section 1 of the Coast Guard Navigation Rules, Rule 5 states that "Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision." Simply put, look around and listen for danger in all conditions so you can make good decisions and avoid hitting another boat, something in the water, or even land.

How do you maintain a proper lookout?  Just looking about occasionally will not suffice.  If you are the driver of the boat, use the following guidelines to keep a good watch:

  1. Delegate someone to be a lookout. If you are with other people, ask someone to help share the responsibilities of lookout.  Tell them they are using all their senses to spot possible danger.
  2. Both the driver and the lookout watch carefully while the boat is in motion. Look for other boats and attempt to determine if their course is likely to intersect yours.  Also look for crab pots, deadheads or other materials in the water that can harm the hull or props of your boat.  If something is spotted by you or your lookout, share the information clearly.
  3. Be prepared to take action if danger is sighted. You may need to turn, slow down or any other manner of actions to evade danger.

For more information on maintaining a proper lookout, visit the resource below:


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