Boating Rules and Regulations
Boating requires rules and regulations for a safe environment. The Navigation Rules are endorsed worldwide, and the U.S. divides these rules into Inland rules applicable to coastal waters within certain Demarcation Lines, and International Rules which apply beyond those lines. Along with the Rules of the Road, there are State and Federal boating regulations and equipment requirements.
Each State has Rules, Regulations and Statutes which apply within their jurisdiction. Not discussed here are regulations and bylaws which some cities and towns may impose in addition to Federal and State Regulations. You should check with your local Harbormaster or city/town officials to see if there are any additional regulations which apply to your home port. Every boater should know the rules that apply to their area of operation.
These rules and regulations are enforced by the Coast Guard, the Massachusetts Environmental Police, and the Harbormasters and/or Police in your area. Be safe for yourself and others on the water!
Here you'll find valuable resources to help you find relevant information for safe and prudent boating.
Chart #1 (Chart Symbols) - Of course it helps if you know how to interpret all the symbols on nautical charts! This reference publication depicts basic chart elements and explains nautical chart symbols and abbreviations.
Notice to Mariners - Updated weekly, the USCG Notice to Mariners provides timely marine safety information for the correction of all US Government navigation charts and publications. The Notices can be downloaded for free.Coast Pilot - The Coast Pilots are 9 text volumes containing information important to navigators such as channel descriptions, port facilities, anchorages, bridge and cable clearances, currents, prominent features, weather, dangers, and Federal Regulations. They supplement the charts and are available from official NOAA chart agents or download them for free on their website.
Light Lists - These publications contain a list of lights, sound signals, buoys, daybeacons, and other aids to navigation. They can be downloaded for free.Demarcation Lines - U.S. Inland Rules apply to vessels operating inside the line of demarcation while International Rules apply outside the lines. Demarcation lines are printed on most navigational charts and are published in the Navigation Rules.
ATONS (Aids to Navigation) - The waters of the United States and its territories are marked to assist navigation by the U.S. Aids to Navigation System. This system employs a simple arrangement of colors, shapes, numbers and light characteristics to mark navigable channels, waterways and obstructions adjacent to these.
Aids to Navigation can provide a boater with the same type of information drivers get from street signs, stop signals, road barriers, detours and traffic lights. These aids may be anything from lighted structures, beacons, day markers, range lights, fog signals and landmarks to floating buoys. Each has a purpose and helps in determining location, getting from one place to another or staying out of danger. The goal of the U.S. Aids to Navigation System is to promote safe navigation on the waterway.
The U.S. Aids to Navigation System is intended for use with Nautical Charts. Charts are one of the most important tools used by boaters for planning trips and safely navigating waterways. Charts show the nature and shape of the coast, buoys and beacons, depths of water, land features, directional information, marine hazards and other pertinent information. This valuable information cannot be obtained from other sources, such as a road map or atlas.
The primary components of the U.S. Aids to Navigation System are beacons and buoys.
Beacons are aids to navigation structures that are permanently fixed to the earth's surface. They range from lighthouses to small, single-pile structures and may be located on land or in the water. Lighted beacons are called lights; unlighted beacons are called daybeacons. Beacons exhibit a daymark to make them readily visible and easily identifiable against background conditions. Generally, the daymark conveys to the boater, during daylight hours, the same significance as does the aid's light or reflector at night.
Buoys are floating aids that come in many shapes and sizes. They are moored to the seabed by concrete sinkers with chain or synthetic rope moorings of various lengths connected to the buoy body. They are intended to convey information to the boater by their shape or color, by the characteristics of a visible or audible signal, or a combination of two or more such features.