Boating skills and seamanship: Protect lives, environment with safe boating

Will Watts

Spending a day on the water enjoying the scenery or trying your luck at fishing are popular pastimes.

Following proper boating practices and etiquette can protect everyone on board and sharing the waterways.

The US Coast Guard Auxiliary is holding a winter session of their safe boating course ‘Boating Skills & Seamanship’ beginning on Jan. 7.

The US Coast Guard Auxiliary is holding a winter session of their safe boating course ‘Boating Skills & Seamanship’ beginning on Jan. 7.

The four-week course is held on Monday and Thursday evenings from 7 until 9:30 p.m. Students get educated on many boating topics and get a 400-page boating text.  

The sessions include navigation, rules of the road, weather, handling your boat, etc.

Although ensuring passenger safety should be a priority, safeguarding against environmental impacts while boating also should be a concern.

Marinas and various marine areas can become contaminated with pollutants generated from boating activities. Boat cleaning, fueling and marine head discharge are just a few of the pollutants that can find their ways into the water. A past study in the marine reserve of Cape Creus in the Mediterranean Sea found that boat anchoring also is a considerable threat to marine habitats, as vulnerable ecologies can be damaged by anchors.

File: Arne Kelsey of the Coast Guard Auxiliary promotes boating safety.

Although there are regulations in place to protect marine life and ecosystems, these rules aren’t always adhered to. Recreational boaters can do their part to keep oceans, bays, rivers, and lakes pristine by adhering to some sound advice we received from the experts.

Reduce engine exhaust

Whenever possible, row, paddle or use sails to decrease engine use and subsequent exhaust. When engines must be used, do not idle unnecessarily. Always steer clear of the aft of the boat, where fuel fumes and carbon monoxide can cause serious health implications.

Keep trash on the vessel

Do not discard any items over the side of the boat. Even seemingly harmless items can impact the environment. Store garbage in a bag and dispose of it properly when you return to the marina or dock. Secure items onboard so they will not blow off and end up in the water.

Avoid antifouling paints

Antifouling paints are special paints applied to the underside of vessels to prevent or slow down the growth of barnacles and other organisms. Maritime New Zealand notes that these paints can harm other sea life and prove dangerous when scraped off and not discarded properly.

Keep boats in proper working order

Poorly maintained boats may harm the environment. Inefficiently working engines can produce more exhaust and contaminate the air and water. Oil and other mechanical fluids can leak into the water and affect the marine environment. Proper maintenance helps keep boats safe and minimizes their impact on the environment.

Use pump-out stations

Pump out stations at marinas enable boaters to safely dispose of the contents from sanitary systems without waste ending up in the water. Commercial ships, such as tankers and bulk cargo carriers, have the added threat of ballast water. Ballast water keeps vessels buoyant. However, when this water is discharged at the next port of call, it can transfer biological materials, like bacteria and plants, from foreign waters. These materials can compromise the integrity of ecological systems.

Respect marine ecosystems

Boaters who plan to enter the water and explore should tread delicately. Coastal areas often play home to birds and other wildlife. Use caution around reefs and habitats.

Safe boating involves following the rules of the water and also keeping marine environments clean and protected.

If you go

‘Boating Skills & Seamanship’

  • 7 until 9:30 p.m., Mondays and Thursdays for four weeks, beginning Jan. 7.
  • Description: The sessions include navigation, rules of the road, weather and handling your boat.
  • Information: Joe Riccio,, 239-384-7416.

5 simple towing tips for novices

Drivers may haul trailers for a variety of reasons. Some may haul trailers on vacation, while others may do so when moving to a new home. Regardless of why drivers tow, it's important to keep certain things in mind before hitching up, especially for those drivers will little or no experience towing.

Use the right hitch

Novices may not immediately recognize if they have purchased an incorrectly sized hitch, but that might become apparent when the trailer is detached during a ride. Your vehicle owner's manual may suggest which size hitch to use. If not, consult with a representative at your local auto parts retailer to determine the correct size.

Make sure the trailer is level

When attached to a vehicle, trailers should be level. Trailers that do not appear level or those that seem to be rising up and down on otherwise flat roadways should be inspected if not brought to the attention of a mechanic.

Drive more carefully

Discomfort or inexperience may propel many drivers to be extra careful when towing a trailer, but even drivers with significant experience towing trailers should keep greater distance between their vehicles and other cars and trucks sharing the road. That's because braking takes longer for heavier vehicles, such as those towing trailers.

Practice turns

Turning is complicated when towing a trailer. Beginning a turn later can help drivers avoid having their trailers clip curbs, a potentially sticky situation that can cause trailers to flip over.

Avoid reversing when possible

Many people towing trailers for the first time and even some drivers with significant experience towing have difficulty going in reverse. Avoiding situations that require putting vehicles in reverse is ideal for novices. Those who think they cannot avoid going in reverse should practice their technique in empty parking lots before hitting the road, even hiring an instructor to help them, if necessary. FC17A367