By Mike and Christine Dubois

Recently someone asked me “what do I do when I see a kite surfer?” As very avid kite surfers, we have had plenty of near misses with boats. The wind travels north-south, the boats travel north-south yet the wind powered vessels travel perpendicular to the wind and travel east-west so this could be a recipe for disaster. (Luckily most boaters will go in during big winds.) Often the misses occur when the driver is turned backward to watch their rider, (use your mirrors, please) or they are too busy chatting with the passengers to pay attention and not scanning side to side.  Here are a few tips to remember when operating a motorboat:

Right of way- who has it? (listed in order)

• Swimmers

• Non-motorized vessels (kayak, sup, row boat)

• Wind-powered vessels (sailboats, kite surfers, windsurfers, etc)

• Motorized vessels 

Every boater is obligated to do what is required to avoid a collision. But you should give way to the following:

• A boat towing a rider 

• A larger vessel (aka a Seadoo should give way to a pontoon boat)

• When approaching head on each vessel must give way. The recommended practise is to veer to the right and pass so the oncoming boat is on the left. If safe to do so, both boats should veer right. (Note: even though the driver’s seat is on the right, the preferred practise is to pass just as you would on a two-lane road. Just pretend you are driving an import on the road. But either side is fine as long as each driver recognizes and veers correctly.)  

• When overtaking a boat from behind, either side is fine, but ensure the boat ahead of you knows you are there. A simple “beep beep” of the horn then a kind wave is a great way to say “hello fellow boater, just making sure you see me so we can both be safe as I overtake you.”  

• On our lakes the boat travelling north-south should have the right of way over the boat coming east-west from shore. So if you are heading in or out of the shore be sure to look both ways and avoid any boats already travelling in a north-south pattern. The etiquette on our lake is to travel north-south, any boat travelling east-west will cause chaos.

So now that you are well versed in right of way, what do you do when you see a kiter?  You’ve already won half the battle because you were actually scanning to the lake to see the kiter, and you know that you must give way to the kiter. Now you must decide: do I have time to pass in front of the kiter? Do I need to slow down or veer my course in order to avoid a collision or close encounter? Don’t assume that the kiter  (or any other boater for that matter) sees you. When in doubt slow down, drive defensively, keep yourself safe and assume the other vessel doesn’t know anything about right of way. 

Tip of the week

How to pick up a fallen rider: When towing, it is imperative that you stay in your lane, not only to protect your rider from oncoming boats, but also to avoid a collision with another boat. If your rider falls, put your boat immediately into neutral, let your rollers go past you, then slowly turn 180 degrees and idle back to the fallen rider who now is directly behind you. Earlier this season I was towing and another boat ahead was also towing approximately 45 degrees to my right. He was in his lane, I was in my lane. His rider fell and he did a massive power turn  to the left – directly into my lane! He had no idea that I was there, I had to do a hard left to avoid him. When he finally saw me he decided it was my fault that he left his lane and he flipped me an interesting gesture. I gave him my biggest smile and a friendly wave and thought; “I really hope that guy reads our better boating articles.” 

A request from a fellow boater: Last week, a fellow boater picked up 17 beers cans floating on the lake one morning. 

Come on boaters, you can do better than this! You must do your part to be a better boater. Good boaters and good people do not throw cans in the lake. If you enjoy boating, be a better human.