Unwritten common sense rules

The bays, coves, flats and channels, which are all part of the North Bay area, may appear to a “land-lubber” as open water with all different types of watercraft moving freely anywhere they wish when they want. This could not be farther from the truth. Just like highways for vehicular traffic, there are Rules of the Road for waterways. If you do not know what they are, find a Boating Safety course before you even think of launching any type of watercraft…learn the rules of navigation…then use your common sense.

Like the choices made at the boat ramp, decisions while on the water can end a day on the water with smiles, angry exclamations or a feeling of relief to still be alive. Sometimes the ending will depend not on “who had the right-of-way” but on the use of “common sense courtesy”.

There are so many different water addictions, and each includes commonly understood, though unwritten, rules. Powerboats include the small fishing boats, cabin cruisers, sports fishermen, shrimpers. Then there are the slower watercraft – sailboats, large and small, and even slower – kayaks, canoes and paddleboards.



Now add in a jet ski or two




and the shoreline fisherman.


Each one wants to enjoy the day doing what he loves most. Sometimes the written rules will cause someone to feel his “rights” have been ignored and angry verbal exchanges take place. Using that “common sense courtesy” can save the day for everyone.

First, consider the unspoken distance of a casting zone. Whether an angler is in a boat or on shore, any boat of any type which passes within that distance, such as 40 feet, is too close. Lines can be cut or tangled in a propeller which causes the angler great annoyance but also may SCARE AWAY THE FISH!

From the power boater’s point of view, if the fisherman is casting into a marked channel, the line should be reeled in to allow the boat to continue without changing speed. It becomes aggravating to the captain of a cabin cruiser to slow down, lose plane then get back up to cruising speed every 500 feet.

Most boaters know sailboats have the right-of-way over the powerboats so when a sailboat is overtaken, it does slow things down. Most sailors, however, would prefer the faster boat to pass them without slowing down which causes a wake they would choose not to have. On the other hand, do have the courtesy not to cut in front of the sailboat too quickly. Even a small wake directly in front of the bow will slow the boat or even bring it to an unplanned stop.


Canoes, paddleboards and kayaks usually hug the shoreline, so they are not inside the reds and greens except when crossing a channel. Then they are moving at their fastest human-power pace so other boats are expected to give-way. As these slow paddlers move along the shore, they may not be able to judge the distance of where the next lure will land but their pace remains constant so the angler can judge when they will reach his casting zone.

And finally, unless you need assistance or there are people or a hazard in the water ahead, please don’t wave your arms wildly to signal a boat to slow down. A boater will think you are in danger and false alarms are not considered a laughing matter.

This is not by anyone’s standard a complete list of the many unwritten “common sense courtesies”. If you have one to share, add it in a comment and help educate fellow addicts instead of ranting to no one in particular.