Navigating a narrow channel can be a perilous endeavour, even for a seasoned skipper. Reduced visibility makes narrow channels particularly delicate to navigate. This is especially true for larger vessels.
Due to dramatically reduced manoeuverability, navigating a narrow channel can represent a danger for both the navigator and for the pleasure craft. It is important to be aware of the rules of navigation before you attempt this tricky procedure.
As a mariner, you must ensure that both your own vessel and others’ remain safe.
When a captain navigates into a traffic-lane, they must remember that the visibility and manoeuverability from the bridge of a vessel is limited. Depending on the size of the boat, they may also be invisible to other boats and should therefore be cautious.
In general, boat operators passing through a narrow channel should, if possible:
Other rules apply for more specific vessels:
Ideally, when there are several smaller boats in a narrow channel, they should navigate in a group to increase their visibility. They should also avoid anchored, moving or towed ferries.
It is important to look out for the cables behind tugs, which can extend below the surface of the water. A small boat that collides with one could capsize or be run aground.
There are established rules for overtaking within a narrow channel, which were created to help avoid accidents. A vessel passing another vessel must indicate its intentions clearly by making a sound with a bell, whistle or horn according to established signaling rules:
To signal agreement, the overtaken vessel should make a long blast followed by a short blast, then repeat.
Manoeuvering a boat can be difficult in certain situations. Navigating a narrow channel requires concentration and a knowledge of various safety procedures. Staying informed will help you safely navigate a channel.