Maryland Safe Boating Course

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Boats and the Marine Environment

Boat Capacities

  • X persons or Y pounds
  • Motor boats have capacity plate on inside transom or next to helm station, except sailboats (see owner's manual)
  • General rule for calculating person capacity= length* bean / 15

Hull Types

  • planing hull ride on top of water regardless of weight, but don't handle well in chop
  • displacement hulls efficient, but have max hull speed
  • flat-bottom, round bottom, v-hull, cathedral hull, tunnel hull (catamaran)

Registration Requirements

  • Vessel Safety Checks
  • Registration numbers always read from l-to-r
  • HIN (like VIN) if manufactured after 1972
  • Federal Documentation (coast Guard) - for boats of 5 gross tons and above only
  • Certificate of Title - proof of ownership - keep it in a safe place (in DSC office?)
  • State registration certificate number, kept on boat,pocket sized registration card
  • Validation decal and registration number required to be shown, both within 3" of each other

Environmental Laws

  • Federal law: Illegal to toss ANY garbage, including banana peels, half-eaten sandwich) lakes, rivers bays and offshore upto 3 miles.
  • Dunnage - packing materials associated with shipping, like packing foam and palletts
  • Garbage placard and oil dumping placard must be prominently posted
  • Waste management plan for vessels 40' or longer
  • Contaminated bilge water also prohibited

Human waste disposal

  • urine is basically sterile
  • Marine Sanitation Device (MSD)
    • type 1 discharge directly overboard reduce bacteria and discharge no visible solids
    • type 2 like type 1 but for 65' and over
    • we have type 3
    • portable toilet not considered MSD since not permanently installed
  • Portable toilet not legal in Ontario

Disposal of Toxic Substances

  • Use fuel booster to avoid having stale fuel in the spring
  • Use less toxic propylene glycol antifreeze instead of ethylene glycol. Try to capture reuse instead of pumping overboard
  • By law, any oil or fuel spill that leaves a sheen on the water must be reported to CG; use absorbant pads/booms
  • Ask marina for closest oil recycling facility or find one using

Environmental tips

  • Establish no trash rule, even cigarette butts
  • Use natural cleaners like vinegar and baking soda.
  • 21 tips for clean water
  • Moorings are better than anchoring for environmentally sensitive areas

Aquatic Nuisance Species

  • zebra mussels, carp, kudzu, lamprey
  • can transport via trailered boats
  • ANS taskforce
  • pull all plant fragments off
  • check rollers to make surere there aren't any plant fragments

Empty all water from the boat, bilge, etc

  • dump or give away all unused bait

Wash off boat and everything and scrub with disposable rag, then leave rag in garbage can at ramp

Boating Equipment

Life Jackets

  • labels - read 'em
  • check amount of buoyancy
  • wear at night congested waterways, by yourself, rough weather, hazardous waters (near dams, strong currents), unfamiliar boat, unfamiliar waters
  • need to be readily available for use
  • inflatable not meant for use under age 16
  1. Type I - offshore, inherently buoyant, bulky, what the coast guard wears
  2. Type II - near-shore inherently buoyand and inflatable jackets - the orange clothespin
  3. Type III - flotation aid inherently buoyant and inflatable - the standard jacket
  4. Type IV - throwable cushion, needs to be within reach, in locker doesn't count
  5. Type V - special use device like sailboat harness, kayaking
  • inflatable must be worn while underway
  • try to inflate jacket orally and leave it overnight to check for leaks
  • inflatable not recommended when water impact expected, like jetski
  • all children under 13 must wear PFD (In MD on vessel under 21 feet)

Required Equipment

  • boats >16 feet need:
  1. 1 PFD per person, plus throwable near steering station
  2. 3 flares
  3. fire extinguishers
    • 26 upto 40 feet: 2 B-1, or one B-2
    • 40 upto 65: 3 B-1, or 1 B-1 and 1 B-2
  4. sound making device
    • upto 40: whistle audible for 1/2 nautical mile
    • Bell must be 7.87 inches in diam
    • over 40: need bell
  5. working nav lights - steaming, stern, port starboard
  • ventilation for gasoline engines required, appropriately sized for boats
    • natural ventilation, plus powered ventilators, bilge ventilators
  • backfire flame arrestor for gas engine
  • noise level of engine can't be over 90db

Navigation Lights

  • yellow over white means pulling barge
  • green over white means trawling

Navigation Sounds

  • short blast = 1 sec, long blast = 5 sec
  1. 1 short blast - I intend to leave you/pass you to my port side
  2. 2 short blasts - I intend to leave you/pass you to my starboard
  3. 3 short blasts - I'm backing up
  4. 1 long blast = leaving dock (then do your 3 short to say backing up, helps boats coming around bend)
  5. 5 short blasts = danger, you don't know what the other guy's intentions are
  • or just reach arrangement on VHF
  • reduced visibility, power driven making way: one long every 2 mins
  • reduced vis, power driven, underway but stopped: 2 long blasts separated by 2 secs, every 2 mins
  • Boat at anchor in fog = rapidly ringing bell every minute

Marine Communication

  • ship-to-ship
  • ship-to-shore
  • family radio/service radio - good for short range, even intra ship. 460 mHz @ 0.5 W
  • Citizen Band (CB) radio - 40 frequencies between 26.965 and 27.405 mHz
    • Channel 9 emergency
  • Single Sideband - distance over 25 miles, 50-150 W
  • satellite
  • handheld/fixed-mount VHF
    • 1 watt for every mile
  • Digital Selective Calling (DSC) = mayday button, broadcasts encoded distress call - may require a Resricted Radiotelephone Operators's Permit
  • antenna
    • gain (in dB) - a component of an antenna. Higher dB greater the range but decreased antenna radiation patterns, affected by rolling pitching of the boat
    • fast boats use high gain antenna.
    • sailboats should use 3dB
  • higher = better range, higher line of sight over the horizon
  • MAYDAY = distress, life-threatening, requires assistance
  • PAN-PAN = urgent, fallen overboard, boat is drifting
  • SECURITE - safety info

Channels and their use

  • Channel 13 - commercial shipping to communicate actions and confirm passage, 1 watt power only, bridge-to-bridge, movements in tight waterways.
  • Channel 16 - distress. All vessels must monitor this channel while underway
  • Channel 9 - recreational calling channel
  • Channel 6 - Ship-to-ship safety messages, communication with search and rescue
  • Channel 22 - working channel for USCG in event of emergency
  • Channels 68,69,71,72 - ship to ship
  • Channel 1, 7-11, 18,19,63,67,79,80 - commercial vessels only, working channel
  • Channel 24-28, 84-88 - ship to shore phone calls - costs money!
  • Channel 70 - DSC

Visual distress Signals

  • Pyrotechnic visual distress signals, like flares
  • Non-pyrotechnic visual distress signalling device, like orange w/ black ball & square distress flag.
  • Signal mirror is nice
  • Learn the flag alphabet.

Trip Planning and Preparation

Operator Responsibilities

  • Float Plan
  • Admiralty Law - property owner owes his invited guest a duty to exercise ordinary or reasonable care for the safety of the guest
  • Warn unsuspecting guest of hazards
  • Liable for injuries as a result of broken equipment
  • Propeller strikes!
  • Boating Ambassador - Show guests around boat, how to use equipment, what to expect while underway.

7 factors for a safe trip

  1. Know the boat
  2. Who is going aboard
  3. Where are we going
  4. What's the boating environment
  5. What is the equipment
  6. What can go wrong
  7. What is my responsibility


  • you know the drill

Preventative Maintenance

  • Replace deteriorated zincs.
  • Inspect props for dings, pits, or loose fitting
  • Inspect rubber outdrive bellows
  • Inspect hull
  • Inspect/lubricate seacocks
  • Inspect sea strainer
  • Check power steering/power trim oil levels, transmission fluid
  • Inspect steering/throttle cables
  • fill battery cells with distilled water
  • CLEAN THE BILGE. Debris, human hair can clog pump.
  • Inspect ground tackle - anchor, rode, shackles

Fuel System Maintenance

  • Clean fuel will prevent 90% of diesel engine problems
  • To check cleanliness of fuel, pump some into a glass jar and let settle. Water and dirt will settle to the bottom.
  • Ethanol (alcohol) can dissolve rubber, plastic, fiberglass, o-rings, etc.
  • Check the seal on your fill deck, o-rings, gasket. Vent fitting might take on water in rough seas.
  • Keep tanks topped off to avoid condensation from air inside tank
  • Algae & fungi can form inside fuel tanks, need water to do so. Treat fuel with biocide to prevent microbes
  • Clean out tanks to check for water/sediment. Use a suction hose. "Polish" the fuel.
  • Feed hose should be type A-1, vent and fill hoses A-2.
  • Every diesel engine has primary and secondary filter. Primary filter removes water. Should have clear sediment bowl.
  • Change filter when dirty. Change primary filter element as specified engine hour interval specified by manual.
  • Change secondary filter element every OTHER primary filter change.
  • Don't let fuel overflow go out vent!
  • Winterizing: crucial! Follow manual.


  • Prevent corrosion with marine grade tinned wire/cable
  • Use crimper rather than solder. Heat shrink crimped connections for a permanent fix.
  • Wire causes voltage drop/loss. No more than 3% for critical parts. 10% acceptable for cabin lights. 16 gauge minimum.
  • Use shortest run/largest gauge possible to avoid voltage loss.
  • Best to have dedicated battery at windlass, then have long-run charging wires.

Boat Transport/Trailering

  • GVWR - Gross vehicle weight rating = total weight of trailer, plus EVERYTHING else
  • GAWR - Gross axle weight rating
  • Tandem trailers handle better, less fishtailing, backup capacity if blowout
  • Trailer tires have thicker sidewalls
  • Submersible trailer - float the boat off. Require more upkeep, steeper boat ramp
  • Roll-off trailers are more expensive
  • Painted trailers good for freshwater, but vulnerable to corrosion in saltwater
  • Galvanized trailers cost more, require maintenance
  • Weirdly painted trailer less likely to be stolen!
  • greater than 1500lbs GVWR means brakes on trailer wheels
  • Trailer hitches: Class I = 2k lbs, II = 3500 lbs, III = 5k lbs, IV = 10k lbs.
  • Most times towing weight vehicle rating is half the weight of the car.
  • Rinse trailer frame after each use
  • Tighten loose nuts
  • Spiderweb cracks on sidewall indicate rotten tire
  • Disconnect lights before dunking! Make sure hubs cool down before they hit the water.
  • Swing wider at corners so trailer doesn't hit curb.
  • Brake early; use lower gears when driving down hill
  • Check wheel hubs while on a trip. If one is hotter than the other, or both feel abnormally hot, inspect bearings.
  • Rig line so boat doesn't drift away. Put the bungs in.
  • Push the bottom of your steering wheel in the direction you want the trailer to go.
  • Use parking brake.
  • Clean your boat at the ramp.
  • Boats on a trailer are easily stolen. Remove tires, take loose stuff off boat (especially outboard), chain trailer to a tree, store boat out of sight,remove license plate and trailer lights.

Tsunami Awareness in Washington State

  • Head out to deep water to save the boat, but expect traffic getting out of Puget sound/Columbia River!


  • Do not get any fuel in the water!!!!!!
  • Use absorbent pads or booms
  • Fuel spillage coverage part of insurance?
  • Take tank off boat for outboard portable tanks. Put onto dock or land to fill

Safe Boat Operation


  • half all incidents drug alcohol related
  • 5,000 recreational boating accidents, $50 million
  • claim 700 lives/year
  • waterways second only to highways as scene of accidental death
  • boater's hypnosis, et al. reduce reaction time
  • dialates small blood vessels close to skin, giving deceptive "glow" of warmth, but reduces body's ability to guard against heat loss
  • BWI federal offense, $1000 fine, .08% legal limit both fed and MD
  • OUI .05% in some states
  • vibration increases efects of alcohol

Rules of the Road

  • Must do everything in your power to avoid a collision
  • wake is like extension of boat
  1. Where are life jackets, fire extinguishers, visual distress signals, VHF radio
  2. file float plan
  3. MD Natural resourses police and u.s. coast guard
  4. In MD, reckless/negligent operation = OUI, speeding in no wake zones
  • Personal watercraft (PWC) requires engine cutoff lanyard, life jacket, not operate after dawn or before dusk, operate <6 kt within 100 ft of anything on shore
  • Right-of-way
    1. vessel where nobody is in control
    2. RAM, large vessels difficult to maneuver
    3. constrained by draft, must stay in channel
    4. fishing iwth commercial gear deployed like nets trawler
    5. sailing vessels
    6. power vessels
  • collisions: overtaking, meeting head on, crossing
  • If crossing and you have them on your starboard, you are give-way
  • Head on - give one short blast, pass to starboard, leave to port, give same signal to acknowledge
  • You're overtaking if you would see her stern light, otherwise crossing, give same horn signals for port/starboard passing
  • in narrow channel, downbound vessels have right of way, propose manner of passing, initiate
  • stay to the starboard when passing, especially around bend
  • if closing distance, but angle relative to bow the same, you're in crossing sitation

aids to navigation

  • buoys, lighted beacon, day beacon
  • Lateral system = red right return
  • can/nun on chart is diamon with white circle, green day beacon is square, red day beacon is triangle, lighted beacon is an exclamation point, lighted buoy is diamond with colored circle
  • For intracoastal waterway red is shoreside, plus bot green and red have yellow mark/sticker
  • dayboards, isolated danger marks
  • can only legally tie to moorings, white float with blue stripe
  • lateral significance ( doesn't tell you which side of channel/river you're on)
  • regulatory marks - open diamond means danger, diamond with cross is exclusion area, circle is regulatory


  • "ground tackle" - anchor, chain, line, windlass. rode includes chain
  • "kedge" your way off a shoal
  • anchor holding power
  1. lightweight "danforth" - two long pivoting flukes, best in hard sand, mud, where flukes can easily dig into bottom; not good for soft mud, rocky or grassy bottoms
  2. plow/cqr/delta style - fixed is delta, pivoting is CQR, great in sand, rocky bottoms, weeds and grass, not good in soft bottoms
  3. claw/"bruce" style - allows 360 degree turn without breaking out
  4. kedge/navy - generally only for very large boats
  5. grapnels, inexpensive but not much holding power, good for wreck or reef anchoring, used for small boats canoes
  6. mushroom - works best in soft bottoms creates suction
  • bleach breaks down nylon line
  • chain only as strong as its weakest link

setting anchor

  1. check chart for bottom characteristics, channel situation, allow for 360 turn


  • stay 100 yards away from any naval boat, minimum speed within 500 yards
  • don't anchor beneath bridges, or in shipping channels
  • national response center 877-24WATCH

Emergency Preparation

  • empty soda bottles put in jacket help
  • Crew overboard:
  1. stop forward progress of boat
  2. get floatation to the person
  3. how many people fell over
  4. assign roles to crewmembers, lookout,
  5. approach swimmer from downwind
  6. avoid sending rescuer in the water
  • prop strike prevention - engine cutoff device
  • file boating accident report for loss of life, injury requiring medical treatment beyond first aid, damage to boat/property damage > $2000, complete loss of boat
  • loss of life , file report w/in 48 hrs
  • 10 days for other situation
  • raw water intake may suck up dirt, so monitor your temperature gauge
  • stay aground and wait for the tide is an option
  • fires : a solids, b liquids, c electrical
  • burning fiberglass is extremely hot and gives off noxious fumes. Abandon ship!
  • have extinguishers weighed, recharged
  • use fire port
  • fixed fire systems in engine room
  • cold water - H.E.l.P. heat escape lessening position, hands over chest
  • cold shock, swimming failure, hypothermia, post rescue collapse

Boating Activities