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Another Voice: Navigation rules must be learned and respected

By Patricia Krzesinski

Back in 1980, my husband and 23 other sailors purchased property on the Buffalo Ship Canal and established the China Light Yacht Club.

There was very little recreational activity going on in this area. On the Outer Harbor, there were huge coal piles that spread their soot over our boats when the typical west wind blew. In the canal, the only other boating activity was the coal-powered grain or cement freighters spewing debris from their smokestacks.

Today, this area in no way resembles what it looked like 35 years ago. Besides our club there is the RCR Yachts Skyway Marina and the First Buffalo River Marina, which combine for over 800 sailboats. There is the amazing Canalside on the Inner Harbor and Wilkeson Pointe on the Outer Harbor. There is the sailing vessel Spirit of Buffalo, water shuttles, a 50-foot bicycle ferry, canoes, kayaks, water bicycles, power boats, paddle boards and more. It is a wonderful and exciting time for the Buffalo waterfront.

However, with this increase in the use of our waterways also comes a responsibility to know and respect navigation rules.

Concerns have been raised about the increased use of our waterways. A vessel is deemed underway when she is not at anchor, or made fast to shore or aground. So, no matter what size the vessel, if you are not paying attention to your surroundings, then you are in violation of the rules because you are a “vessel” and you are “underway.”

Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances so as to make a full appraisal of the risk of collision. To put it simply, if you think there is a possibility that you might cross paths with another vessel, then assume that you will and act accordingly.

In the case of a collision, liability does not necessarily rest with the larger vessel. Everyone on the water has a responsibility to be diligent in avoiding another vessel.

It is also necessary to know the limitations of others using the waterways. Our 35-foot sailboat that weighs 10,000 pounds has no brakes and cannot stop on a dime. With motor, sail and human powered vessels crisscrossing our waters, we all need to be vigilant in respecting each other and knowing the rules.

It is so thrilling to see the revitalization of the Buffalo waterfront. As more and more people use this great resource it is so important that we use it wisely. We should all stay alert and informed when on the water.

Patricia Krzesinski, of Williamsville, is a veteran Buffalo boater.