Coast Guard reminds boaters not to anchor in navigational channels

GRAND HAVEN – With salmon season underway, the U.S. Coast Guard reminds operators of small vessels that anchoring in a narrow navigation channel is dangerous and may impede the movement of large vessels, which is covered by federal navigation rules.

Rule Nine of the Navigation Rules states that “every vessel shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, avoid anchoring in a narrow channel.” Coast Guard boarding teams may ask any small vessels anchored in navigation channels to weigh anchor and move.

While there is no hard and fast rule for what constitutes a narrow channel, one must look at the physical dimensions of the area and the character of use to which the water is put. While a channel may not appear narrow to the operator of a smaller vessel, it could likely seem so to the operator of a large vessel, especially if there were several smaller boats anchored in the area. Larger vessels may enter a navigation channel with the expectation that small vessels will not impede movement. If a large vessel must stop, environmental factors can push these less maneuverable vessels out of the navigable channel and run them aground.

Rule 9 also states that “a vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel that can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway.” To determine whether a small vessel represents an impediment to navigation, the Coast Guard might consider the prevailing visibility, the distance to the nearest bend or obstruction and type of fishing gear deployed by the fishing vessel before asking the operator to relocate.

“The cooperation of all waterway users is vital for safety, freedom of navigation, protection of the environment, security, and enjoyment of natural resources,” said Lt. Cmdr. Rob Hemp, commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Field Office Grand Haven. “Our top priority is ensuring everyone has a safe and enjoyable time on the water.”

There are deep draft harbors (14 feet) in western lower Michigan including St. Joseph, Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon, Ludington, Manistee, Frankfort, and Charlevoix, but the rule protects safety in any narrow navigation channel.

Coast Guard Sector Field Office Grand Haven is responsible for the investigation of marine casualties in western lower Michigan. It is a subordinate command of the Coast Guard Captain of the Port, Sector Lake Michigan, located in Milwaukee, Wis., which is responsible for safety of navigation throughout all of Lake Michigan.

[1] Commonly called the Nautical Rules of the Road.

[2] And the United States Code – U.S.C.A. 2009(c)

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