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What To Do When It’s Up To You
Channels that run from open water to and from a marina and boat ramp are, by design, narrow. Here are some tips to make getting from here to there a smooth ride:
If a boat is passing you, slow down. This allows the faster boat to get around your boat and makes the maneuver safer for oncoming boat traffic within a narrow channel.
Remember, sailboats have either a deep keel or a deep centerboard, so it’s more likely to run aground if pushed to the outside edge of a channel.
There are always powerboaters who’ve been running at 40 knots across open water then suddenly enter a channel and get frustrated with the slow pace of boat traffic (usually six knots max). These are the same folks who are eager to get to the open water but have to follow the channel to its entrance. While it’s wrong for them to be in a hurry, be aware of the fact they may simply push the speed limit and pass you. As above, slow down and let them get by. Many boaters may try contacting them on VHF but chances are good they don’t even have the radio on – or can’t hear it over the sound of the engines.
When approaching a channel entrance from open water, be aware of all the boats coming in at angles and possibly cutting you off. Be ready to reduce speed.
Instead of speeding up to get into the line that is either going out of the channel or coming into the channel, many times it makes sense to simply do a slow 360-degree turn and let the traffic pass before falling in behind the last boat. It’s safer, too. Remember the sage advice from the unidentified captain of a schooner in the 1800s: If you take your time, you’ll get there more quickly.
Channel marker numbers increase going upstream (toward the marina/boat ramp) and decrease going downstream toward open water.
Vessels going downstream on a river have the right of way over boats going upstream. This is because it is easier to adjust speed and direction against the current than with the current.