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California Boating 

A Course for Safe Boating

Chapter 2


Boating Law, Navigational Rules and Navigational Aids


The main purpose of navigational rules is to prevent collisions and other

avoidable accidents, such as grounding in poor visibility, injuring people in

the water and damaging property.

The navigation rules of the road contained in this course summarize basic

navigation rules for which a boat operator is responsible. Additional and more

in-depth rules apply regarding various types of waterways and operation in

relation to commercial vessels and other watercraft. It is the responsibility of a

boat operator to know and follow all the navigation rules.

Boaters must follow the navigational rules under normal circumstances,

but each boater is ultimately responsible for taking any action necessary to

avoid immediate danger, even if it is a temporary departure from these rules.

Such evasive actions fall under the “General Prudential Rule” of the Inland

Navigation Rules.

Collisions happen when an operator is distracted. At all times, boat operators

are legally required to maintain a proper lookout by all available means,

including the help from other adults aboard the vessel. Passengers can watch

for oncoming traffic and water hazards. In low visibility, placing a passenger

lookout away from the engine noise, helps to hear other approaching vessels.



Do not enter restricted areas and do not moor to buoys other than a

specially marked mooring buoy. 



Never obstruct or anchor in a channel, launching area, or route, or interfere

with the travel of other boats.



Do not exceed 5 miles per hour within 100 feet of a swimmer, or 200 feet

of a swimming beach, a swimming float, a diving platform, a lifeline, or a

dock with boats tied to it.



Whenever you are traveling through a narrow channel or coming around a

bend where it’s hard to see oncoming traffic, always keep to the right side.

Boat-to-Boat Communication

You have three ways to communicate between vessels: Light signals, sound

signals and radio. The most common method is radio, but you also need to

know how to communicate using light and sound.


Even if you know the law, that’s no

guarantee that other boaters do.

So, operate your boat with caution.

Boat at a safe speed, and keep a

safe distance from other boats and

obstacles and always look out for

hazards so you can avoid getting into

an accident.


Five short whistle blasts alert other

boaters to a dangerous situation.