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You are legally responsible for the safety of those on your boat, any damage your boat causes to other boats or property, and all others injured by any damage you cause. Just like driving a car, if you do not know and obey the rules, the fact that you do not know them is NOT a valid defense. The following are examples of some (but not all) "right of way" rules.

  • Overtaking: Be ready for trouble when a powerboat passes you in a narrow waterway. As the lead boat (which always has the right of way) stay on your side of the channel and maintain a steady speed so that the overtaking vessel can pass you safely. Both boats share responsibility for safe operation.
  • Meeting Head-On: As in a car, both stay to your right and as far apart as practical, so it is easier and safer to cross each other's wake. Give notice by steering to the right while still far apart. Stay with that plan unless the other boat indicates otherwise. If you have a CB or VHF, use it. Be careful.
  • Crossing: Every boat has a DANGER ZONE from straight in front (the bow) to past the middle of its right side. Like when meeting another car at a street intersection, the one on the RIGHT has the right of way. You must yield to boats in your danger zone.
  • Powerboats must yield to sailboats and boats being rowed or paddled, except in a narrow channel. Stay clear of all big vessels.
  • Navigation lights are required from sunset to sunrise.
  • All watercraft must be equipped with U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved personal flotation devices (PFDs). Check your boat for these items. Children ages 12 and under must wear a USCG approved PFD when the boat is underway.
  • Alcohol and drugs do not mix with boat operation. If caught, you can go to jail.
  • Boat registration must be current to use waterways in Texas.
  • Gasoline fueled boats must have USCG approved fire extinguishers aboard.
  • While water skiing, you must have a boat operator, an observer and a PFD for the skier. Skiing is not permitted after dark.
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