Have the channels seemed crowded lately? You’re not imagining things. People are flocking to boating for freedom and fun, filling our waterways with more experienced captains and more novice boaters. With this unprecedented level of traffic on the water, it’s up to each and every one of us to share the water in a responsible, safe manner. So, we put together a specially curated list of boating tips for navigating crowded waterways.

Tampa Bay Boat Traffic

1. Ace the Launch
The boat ramp, aka The Great Equalizer. When the ramp is busy, it’s important to be quick and be mindful of other boaters. Load all your gear into the boat BEFORE you pull up to the launch to speed things up. Remember, blocking the ramp for too long simply means more spectators waiting around and watching you launch. After launching, move your boat to the side of the dock to free up the ramp, then move your vehicle and trailer. When it’s time to load, just do the same in reverse.

2. Know the Water
Always keep navigation charts onboard and familiarize yourself with the channels, landmarks, submerged hazards, sandbars, etc. Our waterways have claimed many hulls and props, so know and follow the navigation aids to avoid running aground. When heading out to sea in the channel, keep the green aids on your right. Remember “red right returning” and keep the red markers on your right when returning to land. If there is no marked route, navigate clockwise around landmasses.

3. Stand-On and Make-Way
Know the rules for right of way and know what to do when you’re the stand-on vessel or make-way vessel. In either case, be courteous. When overtaking another boat, provide as much room as possible between you and the slower boat so your wake doesn’t disturb it. When being overtaken, be willing to slow down.

4. Respect Anglers
If you see a boat anchored in the middle of open water or along the mangrove line, they’re probably fishing. Alter your route so the roar of your engine doesn’t spook the fish and if you’re unable to safely maneuver around, slow down as much as possible. When you’re the one wetting a line, use common sense and don’t stop and fish in a busy channel.

5. Mind Your Dock Manners
Busy docks are another potentially high-pressure environment, so just remember that other people need to use the dock as well. When you tie up, mind your lines so they don’t create tripping hazards. At the fuel dock, simply employ your best boat ramp etiquette: pump and pay, then move aside.

Practice these good habits and you’ll not only be a better boater; you’ll earn the respect of even the most experienced boaters around you. Remember to share your boating photos with us by tagging @goboatingflorida on Facebook and Instagram and visit our member directory to find all kinds of local marine experts. See you on the water!

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