2015 New York Safe Boating - 31
to the boating day if you ground your boat and damage the
prop. Boaters must keep a sharp lookout for objects in the
water and learn how to recognize changing water depth and
bottom structure. You can use a depth finder or fathometer
to tell you the depth of the water. If you're not sure of your
depth or familiar with potential hazards on the bottom, you
should reduce speed and go slowly.
Waves are a hazard found on large waterways such as
oceans and the Great Lakes. Wind acts on the surface of the
large vessels provide the greatest challenges to recreational
boating; you must stay out of their way, as they are often too
cumbersome to stay out of yours, not to mention the sizable
wake that they leave behind. Be especially careful when
approaching a river bend, because often you won't be able
to see what's around the bend. Stay as near to the outside
of the channel as possible, while remaining in deeper water.
This will allow you to see oncoming traffic earlier. Boats
following the current have right of way over boats going
against the current.
Low Head Dams
Low head dams are found on several rivers in New York.
These are man-made structures that generally have a
smooth, uninterrupted flow of water over them. The change
in river level from above to below the dam is often 5 to
8 feet. As the water drops over the dam it rushes to the
bottom of the river, and then heads downstream. As it
rises up, some of the water flows back toward the face of
the dam, while some heads downstream. A boater who
goes over one of these dams, or approaches too close from
downriver, can get pulled into the face of the dam, pushed
down, brought back up, and pushed again into the face.
There is little chance of escape, and that's why low head
dams are often referred to as "drowning machines."
water creating waves. The greater the force of the wind and
the deeper and larger the waterway, the bigger the waves
can be. Large waves in large bodies of water often develop
quickly and can endanger small craft. Boaters should not
venture out on large bodies of water such as Lake Erie or
Lake Ontario in small inland boats. Even smaller lakes can be
hazardous to small craft when wind and waves combine to
create dangerous conditions.
Bridges present some special challenges, especially for larger
boats and sailboats. Nautical charts will give you the location
of the bridge and its horizontal clearance (width) and vertical
clearance (height). Consult cruising guides for the area you
will be traveling and make notes of the bridges you will
be encountering, including the name of the drawbridge,
its hours of operation, and the recommended method
of contacting the drawbridge operator. Even if you can
navigate under the bridge with plenty of clearance, always
do so at idle speed. You may not be able to see other boats
that may be waiting on the other side, so you should reduce
speed and be prepared to avoid any waiting boats.
Rivers also can offer many different challenges to boaters.
For example, there may be low bridges, overhead cables
or power lines, dams, locks, traffic, and unpredictable
currents. Every river has different hazards, and so you must
learn as much as you can about the river before leaving
shore. Large rivers may have commercial traffic, and these