WHAT RECREATIONAL BOATERS SHOULD KNOW
The speed of a ship, towboat, or tugboat can be deceptive. A tow can travel one mile in seven minutes -- a ship even faster -- and it generally takes 3/4 to 1 1/2 miles to stop. For example, if a water skier falls a thousand feet in front of a moving tug or tow, the skier has less than one minute to get out of the way.
Large vessels must maintain speed to steer, and they must stay in the channel -- it's the only place deep enough for them to operate. Many channels are unmarked. On some waterways, the channel extends bank to bank, so expect vessel traffic on any portion of the waterway.
A pilot's "blind spot" can extend for hundreds of feet in front of deep-draft ships, tugboats and towboats pushing barges.
In narrow canals a tug's or tow's powerful engines can cause a smaller vessel to be pulled toward the tow when passing alongside.
"Wheel Wash" is a strong underwater current caused by towboat or ship engines that can result in severe turbulence hundreds of yards behind a large vessel.
A tug without barges in front could be towing a log raft, barge, or other objects on a long submerged line behind it, which lie low in the water and are difficult to see. Never pass closely behind a tugboat.
Sailboating on inland rivers can be hazardous, and sailboaters and wind surfers should know that a tow or tug can "steal your wind" - so you won't have the same Wind you started with when executing a sailing maneuver near a commercial vessel.
Operating in adverse weather or low visibility can prove extremely dangerous. Why take a chance?
Ships, towboats and tugboats use VHF radio channels 13 and 16. If you are unsure of your situation, or their intentions, feel free to contact them. Remember, you are sharing the waterways with vessels operated by highly trained and conscientious professionals. If you have a true emergency, or need information, they can and will help if properly contacted.
The above information was provided by the American Waterways Operators Foundation 1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1000 Arlington, Va 22209
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