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Marine Navigational Aids to Have Aboard Your Boat

By Randy Troutman

The U.S. Coast Guard stresses the importance of following the guidelines provided by them to promote boating safety. Those guidelines advise boaters on how to be prepared and ready for almost anything on the water by taking the guess work out of boating safety; and among other things has determined what is considered required boating safety equipment and navigational aids.

Marine navigational aids would consist of maps and charts, knowing the “Rules of the Road”, a two-way communication system, and a Global Positioning System.

It would be hard to find a person who is not familiar with what a “GPS” is and what they are used for. Many people have one in their automobiles and the number of those people with GPS for boats is growing.

Is it a good idea to have a GPS for boats, as part of the marine navigational aids on board your boat? Sure it is – but, maybe not as a stand-alone all in one navigational aid.

As a boater, you could use a regular GPS for your boat, whether it is a hand held or stationary mounted model. Since both the regular GPS and the GPS for boats will tell you where on earth you are and both will either have maps already downloaded or for a small fee, you can get maps downloaded from the Internet, either one would work in conjunction with the charts and maps.

But, when deciding which is best for you there are a few things you would want to keep in mind. Marine GPS for boats do have a few or a lot of other tricks designed for boaters, depending on the amount of money you want to spend, such as:

  • Water depth
  • Predicting tides
  • Charting and plotting a navigational course
  • Not only the “You are Here” feature but will remember the courses you take and will show you the way next time with the navigate to track feature
  • Fish finder options
  • Compass and charts stored within the gadget
  • Warn of obstacles in the path of the vessel
  • accurate speed, distance/time to way point and course made good readouts, as well as a digital compass
  • you can see where you are and where you are going even if you cannot see anything else, like in fog or bad weather
  • Man Overboard feature that with just a touch of a button the operator can mark the position of an incident
  • The costly ones can even send photographs in real-time of a storm many miles away

So, depending on the bells and whistles you require will determine the cost of the gadget. Any way you go, the GPS will be a good addition to your navigational aids.

It is said that maps and charts are the most important part of any navigational aids. Sailors have been exploring this world with the aid of maps and charts for centuries – that has not changed.

Maps and charts are very different from one another. Charts show what is beneath the surface of the water, what cannot be seen just by looking, but is necessary to know for safe and effective navigation, while maps only show the surface, and cannot be used to plot your course. There are too many things that weather and man has had effects on and maps are stagnate, charts are not. Charts and maps can be purchased online.

The next part of your Marine Navigational Aids is knowing the “Rules of the Road,” which is essential in boat navigation. The USCG states “Aids to Navigation Are the Waterways’ Road Signs.” Safely driving a car would be nearly impossible if you did not know street signs, stop signs, barriers, detours and even stop lights.

The USCG has a pamphlet – U.S. Aids To Navigation System – which they recommend be printed and kept on board as part of the navigational aids.

It is important to know the basics at least, and the more you know, the safer you, your family, and your boat will remain. You will learn what to do when you have to interact with other boats and how to read the charts – symbols and colors – which you will encounter on the water.

For instance, when in a channel, and you are heading to shore with open water behind you, make sure the red colors and lights remain on your starboard side (right side) and when heading out to open waters, the green colors and lights remain on your starboard side; some boaters use the “3R Rule” which is “Red, Right, Returning.”

When coming up to another boat, head to head, each would preferably pass port to port side with one short horn blast to alert your intent, and one short blast for agreement. If it is necessary to pass starboard, then two short horn blasts from both boats.

It is always the preference to pass on the port side with one short blast.

It is also imperative to learn the colors and images for warnings. Each color and design is there to give warning that for whatever reason, a boat is not allowed or permitted in an area.

Taking these extra steps, learning the “Rules of the Road,” is only part of the Marine Navigational Aids.

Navigational aids

It is also recommended to have a two-way communication system of some sort on board. We all know that cell phones do not go every where and often lose their connectivity when out on the water.

Keeping everyone on board your boat and around your boat safe is the responsibility of the operator and is required by the USCG and your boat insurance company.