Tips on how to solve boat traffic puzzle


In the summer months, recreational boating traffic increases on the Patapsco River and its approaches to marinas, restaurants and anchorages.

And on weekends, the river and its harbors can become a puzzle of commercial and recreational boats -- both power and sail -- coming and going.

Cruise boats, sailing schooners, speed boats, racing sail boats, jet skis, tugs and ocean-going ships cross paths in the river and its harbor approaches.

The Baltimore Harbor Maritime Association suggests the following procedures to help recreational and commercial skippers solve the more difficult situations of the summer puzzle:

* Recreational boaters should avoid using the shipping channels when inbound or outbound. Water depths in areas paralleling the main channels generally are greater than 15 feet and easily navigable.

* While large ships must stay in marked channels because of their drafts, tugs that draw from 12 to 16 feet may cut across shallow areas to reach ships about to embark. Stay clear of tugs when possible and use channel 13 or 16 on your VHF radio to contact tugs about their intentions.

* Ships and tugs often maneuver at 10 to 13 knots. At 10 knots a ship travels 1 nautical mile in six minutes; at 15 knots it takes four minutes. Be aware of how quickly they move, and keep in mind that it is easier for a recreational boater to steer clear than for a big ship and its tug to maneuver.

* Cruise ships, tour boats and tugs towing barges are not restricted to the channels in the harbor, and rules of the road apply. When in doubt, steer clear and be especially cautious of any vessel towing a barge or another vessel. Tow lines are hard to see even in the best conditions.

* In poor visibility -- even if you have radar or a radar reflector -- keep a constant lookout, use binoculars and give proper sound signals.

* If you have an emergency and need to call for help, the Baltimore City Marine Police and the U.S. Coast Guard monitor ** channel 16 and coordinate responses within the harbor and river area.

* Observe the 6-mph speed limit from the markers at Fort McHenry into the Inner Harbor.

* Keep your radio on and know the sound signals:

* Five short blasts mean alert, danger;

* Three short blasts indicate moving backward;

* One long blast indicates being under way;

* Two short blasts in passing situations mean the sounder will present his starboard side while passing and demands a response of two short blasts if skippers are in agreement and five short blasts if they are not.

* One short blast in passing situations means the sounder will present his port side while passing and demands a response of one short blast when skippers are in agreement and five short blasts when they are not.

Dangerous 4th

BOAT/U.S., the country's largest organization of recreational boaters, says that as many as 60 persons will die in boating accidents on the Fourth of July, and at least half of those deaths will be alcohol-related.

When going out to cruise, fish or watch the fireworks, take along a designated skipper.

Kids' fishing clinics

Maryland's 1994 youth fishing clinics will be held at selected state parks between July 11 and Aug. 18. The four-day sessions are free and available for ages 7 to 14.

The sites and schedule:

Greenbriar State Park, Martinak State Park, Cunningham Falls State Park, Cow Pond, Centennial Park, Harford Glen Environmental Center -- July 11-14; July 18-21; July 25-28; Aug. 1-4; Aug. 8-11.

Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary -- July 12-14; July 19-22; July 26-29; Aug. 2-5; Aug. 9-12.

Rocky Gap State Park and Schumaker Park -- July 11-14; July 18-21; July 25-28; Aug. 1-4; Aug. 8-11; Aug. 15-18.

For more information, call 1-800-688-FINS.

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