Rules of the Road, Introduction

Over the last 100 years, the evolution of the automobile has changed the daily lives of Americans making them more mobile and expanding individual freedoms. Imagine what it would be like today if we had not developed traffic regulations and laws to maintain some semblance of order on our streets and highways? In 1927, the American Association of State Highway Officials published the first uniform road construction, signage, and traffic regulations. In today’s world, the knowledge and application of these laws are second nature and learning them is a milestone toward adulthood when you get your first driver’s license. It signifies maturity, responsibility, and personal accountability; to be given the right to operate a motor vehicle. It’s sometimes hard to believe that the freedom the automobile has brought us today has transpired in such a brief moment in human history.

Image of a painting of merchant ships from the late 1700's.

Merchant ships from the late 1700’s.

Boating, on the other hand, has a history that dates back centuries. In the early days, *vessel regulations were not needed since the number of vessels navigating the globe were few; and, encounters with other vessels were rare unless they were being taken as a prize! With the world no longer dependent on sail, global expansion and advancements in technology of the 19th century created much more versatile vessels and a need for a system of rules to prevent collisions at sea. In 1889 the United States convened the first international convention to consider regulations for preventing collisions but it was not until 1940 that the regulations for small vessels under 65 feet were established.  A complete reorganization and modernization, the navigation rules were later completed in 1971, which remain the basis for the rules we have today. This is a short recap of nearly 200 years of evolution of the rules, but hopefully, you get a feel for their purpose in enhancing the safety of mariners and boaters alike.

So why is this important?  Let’s go back to 1958. This was when the Federal Boating Act was passed. In the years prior, the nation experienced the highest recorded boating fatality rates.  Although this addressed some of the issues it was not until 1971 when regulatory requirements changed and the Federal Boating Safety Act was put into place requiring manufacturing standards and safety equipment requirements. Because of the new standards, the fatality rates steadily continued to fall and today we see very little change in the numbers. Accidents and fatalities due to vessel design and mechanical problems have virtually become non-existent. The only factor unresolved is the “human factor.”

Graph depicting a decline in boating fatalities since enacting the Federal Boating Safety Act of 1958.

The impact of boating safety laws on recreational boating fatalities over time.

The Coast Guard is initiating human factor interventions using a public health model to help reduce accidents and fatalities. Taking into account human factors, characteristics of the source of harm, and the environment identifies causes and suggests possible interventions. So why bring this up in a discussion about navigation rules? Fatalities are the final result of a chain of events that, if not corrected, lead to that end. So, early intervention can prevent the accident from happening, changing the end result. The leading casual factors in boating accidents are operator behavior and inattention.

Image of a Chesapeake Bay collision between a power boat and sail boat in August 2018.

Chesapeake Bay collision in August 2018. Full article:

Over the past 10 years, operator behavior has been the leading cause of boating accidents nationwide. Alcohol continues to be a contributing factor. Poor operator behavior takes on many forms: distracted operation, failure to keep a lookout, operating at unsafe speed and failure to follow the Navigation Rules. Keeping a proper lookout and safe speed are included in the navigation rules. The basic intent of navigation rules is to prevent collisions but they also reduce congestion, user conflict, and other accidents. Having a basic knowledge and the ability to apply these rules is a fundamental necessity in operating a boat safely. From paddle craft to freighters and everything in between, these rules apply equally with the exception of special circumstances, which are identified in the rules as well.

So if you’re a boater, how does this apply to you?  First, the rules apply to all *vessels. This means every description of watercraft used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water. Best way to understand this is by what is not considered a vessel. These are pool toys or swimming aids such as air mattresses, inner tubes, inflatable flamingos, etc. Rafts, canoes, kayaks, sailboards, kiteboards and stand up paddle boards are considered vessels. Regardless of your choice of vessel, it is incumbent on all vessel operators to prevent collisions.  Continually being aware of your surroundings plays a key role in preventing collisions. Taking immediate and positive action to prevent a collision is the first step.

“Every vessel shall use all available means appropriate to the prevailing conditions to determine if the risk of collision exists. If there is any doubt such risk shall exist.”  One of the mistakes most people make is assuming what the other boater may or may not do.  This is a dangerous guessing game and hesitation costs you time.  If there is any doubt a risk of collision exists, you must take early and positive action to avoid the collision. So how do you know if a risk of collision actually exists? We first need to understand the “principle of relative motion.” Relative motion is the motion of an object with regard to some other moving object. We subconsciously use this principle every day. You’re driving down the road or walking down a street. You see a car or person heading your direction. You notice that their position relative to yours is not changing and they are getting closer. You automatically know that if something does not change you’re going to collide. You can either slow down, speed up or turn and slow down to let them pass in front of you. In the boating world, this is called “constant bearing decreasing range.” This is when the risk of collision exists.

So how do you avoid having an accident when the risk of collision is established? Operating at a safe speed where you have sufficient time to slow your speed to avoid a collision or changing course in sufficient time to remove the risk. The key is vigilance and maintaining a proper lookout at all times to establish when the risk exists. It is important that “any action taken shall be positive, made in ample time and with due regard to good seamanship.” Simply put, once you know there is a risk of collision, take action in plenty of time and give yourself plenty of room to maneuver. Don’t wait until the last minute reducing your options for safe passage. A simple course change or slowing your speed alone may fix the problem but you have to make sure that you do so in a significant enough manner that there is no doubt by the other vessel that you have slowed your speed or changed course. If you have a VHF radio, call the other vessel, discuss your intentions and agree on a course of action. Remember, you can’t force someone else to comply. They have to first have knowledge of the navigation rules and then secondly, a willingness to comply. This is why it is so important to identify and address the risk of collision early enough to be able to safely react if the other vessel is not going to comply.

Rules of the road infographic from BoatUS Foundation.

Powerboat rules of the road infographic from BoatUS Foundation.

Looking at the Navigation Rules book this all seems pretty complex but when you break the rules down into what actually applies to the average recreational boater it’s just basic common sense.  Most accidents could be avoided if the basic rules had been followed, proper lookout, safe speed, identifying the risk of collision and actions to avoid a collision. It all falls down to the basics and the philosophy that, “Superior mariners use their superior knowledge to avoid situations which require their superior skills.” Learn the right way and then apply it!

This is just a brief history and introduction to navigation rules. We have talked about the basics.  In fact, we touched on most of Rules 5 (Lookout), 6 (Safe Speed), 7 (Risk of collision) and 8 (Actions to avoid collision).  My future articles will get closer to the individual rules to decipher their meaning and how they apply to you as a recreational boater.  But, if you remember and apply the four rules we touched on today your risk of collision will decrease dramatically.

*The term “Vessel” is synonymous with “boat” for the purposes of this article.

-By Dan ShipmanUS Coast Guard District 13 Logo, US Coast Guard, District 13

(This blog is part of a series of articles about the federal Navigation Rules for boating.  The Marine Board is required by statute to align state boating laws with federal regulations.)



Benji’s Story -A Cautionary Tale About K9 Safety

The Marine Board reports accident and fatality statistics on Oregon’s waterways each year, and the US Coast Guard reports statistics nationwide.  What often goes unreported are the injuries and accidents with our beloved K9 companions.  Suzanne Foong’s story is a cautionary tale she’d like to share in hopes of averting tragedy for other boating families.

Picture of Benji, a happy Boating Co-Pilot

Happy Boating Co-Pilot

This is my boy, Benji!  July 27, 2018, would have been his first birthday.  He was the most amazing guy, smart, playful and had the most contagious personality! Everyone that met Benji immediately fell madly in love. He had such a great disposition that he was in obedience training and I had plans for him to become an emotional therapy dog- going to hospitals, schools and nursing homes! We went for walks every day, sometimes twice a day because he was so curious and loved going out to experience the world. He loved going to my parent’s house because they live on three acres and he could explore on his own. He enjoyed going to Mudd Bay to pick out his favorite toys and treats. Easy to say, he was the happiest, most loving boy who fell in love with life as everyone fell in love with him.

On July 7, 2018, our family experienced a tragic loss. My kids took him out on the boat on the Columbia River.  He loved being out there; the feel of the wind in his face, swimming around the island, running with the kids and playing ball.  When my kids were going out in the boat, my daughter was sitting with him at the bow, holding on to him while they were heading out to an island.  My son was driving the boat and they were pulling into a beach spot and decided for various reasons that it wasn’t the best place to park the boat.  My son slowly turned away from the island going about 10 mph at most, and my daughter let go with one hand to help navigate. The moment she lifted one hand, Benji jumped into the water right off the front of the boat.  My daughter screamed to stop the engine, but it was too late.  Water was drawn into the prop and Benji never had a chance.  She thought about jumping in after him but her instincts said to wait.  Thank God she didn’t because I would have suffered the loss of my daughter as well.

We have been so devastated by this tragic accident and the loss of our beloved puppy and could not let his death be meaningless.  We want to use this lesson to make a difference in saving the life of another dog or even a child.  I will not tell you that you should not allow children and dogs in the front of the boat, that dogs should be tethered, or that they should always wear life jackets; that is for you to decide.  Just take note and pay attention to our sorrow and learn from our loss.  We do not want any other family to experience this kind of tragic accident again, and we think the more people are aware of how dogs or kids behave in their excitement, the less this will happen.  What I have learned from this experience is to be grateful for what you have, take nothing for granted, love deeply and live each day fully because it is a gift!

Here are a couple pictures below of Benji the day of the accident just as they were getting on to the boat. He was so excited and happy to be out there on the water, you can just see it on that sweet face of his!







We know he’s having a ball up there in doggy heaven.


The Oregon State Marine Board recommends closely monitoring animals and children when docking, beaching, or entering boat slips.  It’s not uncommon for dogs to jump out of a boat or kids to reach their hands out.  It’s up to each boating family to decide how to plan for safety.  Many thanks to Suzanne for reaching out to the Marine Board and her courage to bring this issue forward in hopes of raising awareness for other families.  Rest in peace, sweet Benji.

Sturdivant park docks soon to be replaced

February 22, 2018
Nicholas A. Johnson, The World

Sturdivant Park's dock

A dock floats Wednesday in the Coquille River near the boat launch at Sturdivant Park in Coquille. The dock saw damage during a 2015 flood and is slated for repair. -Ed Glazar, The World

COQUILLE — After two years of planning and collecting funds the city the Coquille is waiting to hear back on a grant from the Oregon State Marine Board to replace the docks at Sturdivant Park along the Coquille River.

The project, with contingencies, will cost around $600,000. Coquille has already received $93,000 from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and $52,000 from the Port of Bandon. The missing amount of funds the city hopes to get through its grant with OSMB that grant being just over $250,000.

“This is a big ticket for what’s basically a Parks and Rec thing. However, it’s a big deal to Coquille to have that boat ramp and transient dock open and working because it brings a lot of people to town,” Public Works director for Coquille Kevin Urban said.

Oregon State Marine Board brought the project to the attention of the city when it looked into its stability in 2015. It reported back that most of the docks were end of life, end of service.

Urban said he’s not sure exactly how old the docks are, because he can’t find any documentation as to when they were built. However, he suspects they are around 25 years old.

Not all of the parts of the docks are bad. There are some aluminum sections that are still in good shape and will be used with the new docks.

The main issue with the old docks stems from how they were built. They were not built to accommodate rising tides as a result of heavy rains.

“The gangplank was solid at level, in other words it would go down but it wouldn’t go past a level height. So there were a couple of times when the water has gotten higher than that and it’s snapped,” Urban said.

The new plan will place floats under the gangplank so that it rises with the river.

If it elects to help fund the project there are certain things that the OSMB won’t pay for.  For example, the new dock plan will have an area where folks can fish off the dock and OSMB is strictly involved with boating. Money donated by ODFW will go toward making the fishing section of the docks.

“Fish and Wildlife came through and said, ‘OK here’s that portion for people fishing off the docks’. People always did fish off those docks even though they weren’t supposed to. Every time a sign was put up that said ‘no fishing’ it disappeared very quickly. There’s probably a dozen of them at the bottom of the river,” Urban said.

OSMB has been working with the city since it first recognized that the docks need to be replaced back in 2015. They helped with planning and profiles as well as conducting surveys and finding cost estimates.

“They also helped put together the joint permit application for the Corps of Engineers and the Department of State Lands which is a huge long permit, it calls for so much technical information. The fella who did it at state marine board, he and his staff are just incredibly knowledgeable,” Urban said.

If all goes well construction on the docks should start this summer.

Aside from being popular place to fish on the Coquille River, the docks at Sturdivant Park are the access point for law enforcement when it needs to patrol the river.

Urban was very grateful for all the support he’s received from both government agencies and the public during the grant witting process.

If for some reason OSMB isn’t able to fund the grant for the docks, Urban will be looking for private donations to see the project through.

“It’s all crossed fingers at this point. I think it’s a strong grant, but you never can tell. OSMB has definitely been involved and I think they want to see the project through, but if it doesn’t happen we’ll just have to find another way. I’ve done that before and we’ll find a way to get it done,” Urban said.

The Sturdivant Park docks are currently the largest project the City of Coquille is working on.

“We have money, we have manpower, and we also have some materials that we can use for putting in the docks … We’re done with our plans, we’re done with our permitting, now we’re just trying t pull together our funding,” Urban said.


The Marine Board is funded by registration, title fees and marine fuel taxes paid by motorized boaters.  No general fund tax dollars are used to support the agency or its programs.  Boater-paid fees go back to boaters in the form of law enforcement services (on-the-water enforcement, training and equipment), education/outreach materials and boating access facility grants.  The Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit program is dedicated funding to pay for border inspection stations, decontamination equipment, inspectors, and signage/outreach materials.  For more information about the Marine Board and its programs, visit

New Marine Board Member on Board

Wake the World Oregon Coordinator, and new Board Member, Vince Castronovo

Wake the World Oregon Coordinator, and new Board Member, Vince Castronovo

Agency staff would like to “Welcome Aboard” our newest Board member, Vince Castronovo.  Vince fills the seat of former member, Brian Carroll from Linn County.  His term on the Board began in October and runs through June, 2021.

Castronovo’s boating passion began at an early age when his father brought home their first boat; an eight foot row boat to play in the pond across the street from where he grew up.  The family quickly moved up to a runabout a few years later, when the passion for motor boating really took a foothold.

Boating remains a very special part of Castronovo’s own family life and a new purpose with passion developed that has become a family-affair.  In 2012, Castronovo began an Oregon affiliate with “Wake the World,” from North Carolina where kids in foster care are given a opportunity to spend a day on the water to learn watersports.  Castronovo started out with one event with 24 boats, to nine events involving over 100 volunteers and over 50 boats that serve hundreds of kids in Oregon and Washington.

Castronovo not only organizes the events, he’s taken on the responsibility of being a coordinator and boat operator for the events as well.  As to why Castronovo wanted to have a seat on the Board, he said, “I want to make sure that boating safety is a high priority. I decided to become more involved with the Marine Board to learn the ins and outs of boating laws, policies, and planning.”  Castronovo adds, “I started out volunteering as a member of the Marine Board’s Watersports Boat Oregon Advisory Committee in 2016, and with over 45 years of boating experience and a passion to help keep boating safe for all who use our waterways, I hope to offer my voice and experience to the Board in making decisions that impact recreational boating.  I look forward to representing the watersports community and finding ways to improve boating enjoyment for all!”

Castronovo works as a Project Manager for a flooring company (over 29 years) and in addition to riding waves, also serves as a pet rescue to nine critters.

Marine Board members are confirmed by the Senate, appointed by the Governor and serve four year terms.  The Board members serve at the pleasure of the Governor and the agency Director reports directly to the Marine Board.  All members are volunteers (non-paid positions) from the general public with a background in Oregon boating. 

Wake the World Oregon -Making Waves and Making a Difference

Event Organizers of Wake the World Oregon

Event Organizers for Wake the World Oregon

Mesmerizing fog hovers over the early morning hours at Henry Hagg Lake as trailered boats and big rigs start launching and stage themselves close to the dock, ready for their crews to arrive.  Each “crew” is made up of experienced wakeboard boaters with a passion for watersports and a desire to give of themselves, so local foster kids can experience an opportunity of a lifetime –a day on the water.  There’s also a flotilla of caring volunteers who are the thread in the needle that weaves all of the on-water and shore-side activities together.

“Wake the World” all started in 2008, when a near-death car accident led founder Greg Hodgin to a calling to serve a higher purpose.  He created “Wake the World,” a non-for-profit 401 (3)(c) organization as a means of giving back; to use his skills as a U.S. Masters Wakeboard Champion in a special way to offer foster kids a day to “just be a kid” and pass along his passion for watersports.

How Wake the World Works

Wake the World flotilla heading out to meet up with their families on a beach area on Foster Lake

Wake the World flotilla with (42 boats) heading out to meet up with their families at a beach area for the Foster Lake event.

There are many event organizers in several states who share a similar passion and follow in the wake created by Hodgin.  Hodgin says, “Each foster family is assigned to their own boat with a boat driver for the entire day.  When the kids find out how the event works, a typical reaction is, “This is our boat -all day?!”  Serious joy comes to their faces. Hodgin adds, “We give the kids an opportunity to learn how to wakeboard, wake surf, tube, and use zup boards…the list goes on.  We provide a day of fun doing whatever the kids want. We strive to give them a day that brings joy, tons of smiles and to let them know they are loved by so many,” Hodgin says with a smile.

Going Hog Wild on Hagg Lake

By the time the fog burned off, families started to arrive at Hagg Lake.  The Hagg Lake “Wake the World” event, organized by Mark Crowell, marks the first out of seven Wake the World events planned in Oregon for the summer of 2017.  Families were given a quick orientation and overview of the day, and then they are paired up with their boat.  Each boat heads out to get everyone acclimated to the water and learning the proverbial, “ropes.”   Around noon, the boats start to come in.  Everyone is served lunch, and after a short rest, they get to go out again until they’re tired and hungry for dinner.  Meals and other goodies are provided by generous sponsors.

Shore volunteers connecting the families with their boats for the day.

Shore volunteers helping connect the families with their boats and helping everyone get acclimated.

Vince Castronovo, a new member to the Marine Board’s Watersports Boat Oregon Advisory Team, helped kick-start Wake the World Oregon in 2011.  “It started with just a few boats and a few families and as more people got involved as drivers or shore volunteers, the momentum picked up.  It’s so exciting to see each event grow year to year,” says Castronovo.  The events are held during the weekday to not impact plans of other boaters.  As boats arrive, they stage themselves and take turns quickly launching, then waiting on the water nearby until it’s time to pick up their families.  Volunteers on shore greet each family with a placard with their name on it, and then take them to their boat.  It’s there when each boat operator does general introductions, explains boating safety rules, and waits for the kids to tell them what they want to do.

When asked about why he wanted to bring “Wake the World” to Oregon, Castronovo said, “I’m right there with Greg.  So many kids are let down by adults.  I thought, if there’s a way I can help shift how a kid looks at life, then I’m giving back in the best way possible.  What better way to shift a life perspective than to connect kids to the water?”  Castronovo adds, “Many kids don’t know how to swim and have never been exposed to boating and I can show them!  I can offer up my boat and my time and possibly make a positive impact on a kid’s life.”   What an impact, too.  The energy, the smiles, the laughter; it’s contagious.  One of the two events organized by Castronovo on Foster Lake enrolled 42 wakeboard boats, 170 kids, and 50 other shore volunteers.  Castronovo also served as a boat driver for the Hagg Lake event and tries to participate in as many Oregon “Wake the World” events that he can, along with his supportive, energizing family members.

Nicholas -expressing his pure joy on his first ride.

Nicholas -expressing his pure joy on his first ride.

Back on Hagg Lake, after pairing up with his assigned family, Castronovo began with a quick safety talk on wearing life jackets, about what to do when the boarder is down, the important job of being a spotter, and that everyone in the boat needs to be his “extra eyes and ears” while he focuses on driving.  It was quite a thing to witness, being on a boat with a family who had never been on the water before.  Two of the kids assigned to Castronovo’s boat, Michael and Nicholas, were excited to try the zup board, which is wider than a typical wake board, but equipped with side handles and a front harness for the tow rope.  The rider can either lie down on the board or stand up holding on to the tow rope.  One of the kids, Nicholas, said he wanted to get on a board and “fly.”  It was also during the first excursion Castronovo carefully explained what he was going to do as the driver and what the boarder needed to do to communicate –with hand signals.  It only took a few falls and a few passes for everyone to figure things out.  At one point, Castronovo said, “See that boat coming up on us to the starboard, right side?  He’s overtaking us, so that means I need to keep the same speed and direction so he can safely pass us.  That’s one of the boating rules-of-the-road.”

Nicholas flying on his zup board.

I’m flying!

Michael started things off by hopping onto the board and within minutes, was trying to figure out how to maneuver the board over the wake for the most air time.  After a few trips around the lake, it was Nicholas’ turn.  From the moment Nicholas got on the board, to the minute he stopped, he was grinning from ear to ear.  At one point, Nicholas did fly, letting go of the hand holds and flapping his arms like a swan.  Everyone’s heart cracked wide open in that moment with collective “awe’s,” and claps from everyone in the boat.


Wake the World founder, Greg Hodgin with Vince Castronovo and Michael, being show how to stand up and hold on to the zup board for the next tow.

Wake the World founder, Greg Hodgin with Vince Castronovo and Michael, being show how to stand up and hold on to the zup board for the next tow.

For the next go around, Michael was ready to stand on the zup board, so Greg carefully demonstrated what Michael needed to do and how to begin standing while he was being towed.  It didn’t take long before Michael was up and leaning back like a pro, riding the wake to and fro with effortless ease.  Both of these boys were clearly water-babies and were naturals at watersports, eager to learn and soaking up all of the tips they could from Hodgin and Castronovo.

By the early afternoon, young Michael seemed particularly interested in the boat operation and Castronovo let him take the helm to get a sense of how the boat maneuvered.  Michael played it cool, and appeared to be in deep concentration as he carefully listened to Castronovo’s commands.  “Future boat captain right here!” exclaimed Castronovo.

Wake the World was a Wake-Up Call

Hodgin congratulating Nicholas for a successful first run on a zup board.

Hodgin congratulating Nicholas for a successful first run on a zup board.

What wasn’t lost in this “Wake the World” experience was the collective knowledge, skill and planning that took place, with seamless ease.  Boats launched and retrieved quickly.  Operators communicated amongst each other well, and the worst injury of the Camp Agape (Foster Lake) event was a small cut on the knee.  The planning and detail of each event was meticulous, and everyone was able to “go with the flow,” when something didn’t go according to plan.  Operators displayed courtesy, were careful not to wake other boats, and kept their distance from other water recreationists.  Unlike so many of the negative stories the Marine Board hears about wake boat operation, this event brought out the very best in everyone and they set a standard for being ambassadors for watersports.  There were extra boats in case one broke down, extra drivers, ample volunteers, plenty of life jackets, first responders, lots of different towing devices, and most of all…generous watersport enthusiasts being tremendous role models with skills to share and big hearts to make it all happen –so the kids could be kids.

Prepping for success. A bounty of life jackets in different sizes and styles to "fit" everyone's needs.

Prepping for success. A bounty of life jackets in different sizes and styles to “fit” everyone’s needs.

“The thing about giving back is it all comes back to you,” Hodgin and Castronovo both echo.

The Marine Board sees great advocates for wakeboarding and other watersports in this incredible organization.  What they’re doing begs for more.

If you’d like to awaken your own spirit of giving, check out Wake the World Oregon to take part in this tremendous organization.

Caution to Boaters -Boat Safe & Expect Debris on Area Rivers

Caution to Boaters -Flooding, Debris Expected on Area Rivers

Keizer Rapids boat ramp with debris accumulating at the boat ramp.

Keizer Rapids boat ramp with debris accumulating at the boat ramp.

Finally a sunny weekend is forecast!  This past winter’s snowfall and unprecedented wet spring has created some challenges for recreational boaters that will certainly test your skills .  Swollen rivers bring debris flows with trees, root wads, and other material that can impact the safety of boaters on the water.

The Marine Board and marine law enforcement strongly urge boaters to take the following precautions:

  • Plan, research, and plan some more.  Find out the river levels, plan for the weather conditions where you’ll be boating and know the timing of the tides.
  • Make sure the boat ramp is open for launching. The Marine Board is working closely with facility managers and will include closure information on the Boat Oregon Map.  Orange boat launch icons indicate a ramp is closed.
  • Scout the river before running it. Rivers are dynamic, and don’t stay the same over time.  Boulders and logs move, trees fall, and currents shift.  When in doubt –scout and portage out.  Better yet, if the river is calling you, go with an experienced, registered outfitter/guide.  The Marine Board has an online Outfitter/Guide/Charter lookup function through the online storefront from the Marine Board’s website.
  • Wear a life jacket. Given the water temperature and equally cold air temperature, boaters are encouraged to wear a properly fitting life jacket on the outside of their outdoor attire.
  • Boat with others and stay within sight of one another.  In motorboats, always have a first mate with assigned roles (i.e. one person stays with the boat and holds a bow line while the trailer driver parks after launching).  Everyone will need to keep a sharp lookout.
  • Anchor properly.  Seems so simple, but this is a developed skill.  It’s critical to have enough rode (line plus chain) and the right anchor for the waterbody you’re boating.  You need to have at least 7-10 times the depth of the water in which to anchor.  Many river depths change frequently, so a critical piece of equipment to invest in is a depth finder.  Be sure to check out our past blog post on anchoring.
  • Start out slow.  Get your bearings, and expect the unexpected.  Because water levels are high everywhere, there may be submerged objects just below the surface.  Debris flows, with large logs in particular, can pack quite a punch, so boat smart and maneuver your motor trim accordingly.  The last thing any boater wants is to blow a prop or get their hull punctured.
  • Know your limits and how to self-rescue. Be sure your skills and experience are equal to the river and the conditions.  For more details about river running, here’s a great resource: Whitewater Guide Book, “High Water Safety: Guidelines for Rafting Swollen Rivers.” 
  • Fill out a digital float plan and print out a copy to let others know where you are boating and when to expect your return. The digital form, when submitted, sends an email to the Marine Board that can be used later to aid marine law enforcement should a boater need help.  It’s incredibly important to let other people know important information such as the make, model, and size of your boat, how many people are going out, and what activity they plan to do.

High water levels and large, woody debris may have contributed to the Wallace Marine Park’s boarding docks to shift and the pile hoops to break. The docks will be pulled and assessed. The boat ramp is currently closed.

Visit and click on the Boat Oregon Map to find a boat ramp near you.  The website and the application are optimized for mobile devices.

Bilge Pump Basics

They’re your last line of defense against sinking, so give them some respect — and a little love from time to time.

By Frank Lanier

Photo of a primary and secondary bilge strainer

Due to the lack of maintenance they receive from the average boat owner, I often refer to bilge pumps as the Rodney Dangerfield of boat equipment, meaning “they just don’t get no respect.” It’s a funny but also troubling statement, particularly because bilge pumps are often a boat owner’s first and only line of defense against sinking. To prevent you from being that proverbial scared sailor with a bucket, here’s a look at bilge pump basics — from what they do, to selection, installation, and maintenance.

What They Are (And Aren’t)

The primary job of most bilge pumps on most boats is to clear nuisance water from the bilges (packing gland drips, spray from an errant wave, etc.). The one that came with your boat may be up to that task, but a bilge pump should also be able to provide crucial extra time if your boat is taking on water, allowing you to find and deal with the source of a leak or, in extremis, to don life jackets and hopefully keep your boat afloat long enough for help to arrive. Most people upgrade to a larger bilge pump or add a backup bilge pump to give them time to deal with an emergency. Even that pump should not be confused with an emergency pump, which provides much greater dewatering capacity. If you plan on fishing the Canyons or sailing offshore, then you need a true “crash” pump, one that can move hundreds of gallons per minute.

This article will focus on the middle of these three options — the bilge pump meant to remove nuisance water but also to give you time to deal with an emergency. See the article “Bilge Pump Capacity: Do The Math” to figure out how much pumping capacity you need.

What Type Of Bilge Pump Do You Have?

The most common types of bilge pumps (and the primary focus of this article) are centrifugal and diaphragm electrical pumps. Centrifugal pumps move water by kinetic energy using a rotating, solid impeller, similar in design to a turbine. Water enters the pump, picks up speed as the impeller rotates, and is then forced out by its own momentum. Centrifugal pumps are submersible but not self-priming, meaning they must be sitting in water in order to pump it.

Centrifugal pumps are relatively inexpensive and can move a lot of water. Other advantages include low maintenance, excellent reliability, and the ability to pass small amounts of debris without clogging. They can also run dry for extended periods without damage, although this does wear the bearing and will cause it to fail eventually. Disadvantages include their inability to self-prime and their loss of effectiveness the farther they have to push water vertically.

A diaphragm pump acts like a little wet-vac to suck out bilge water. Water is pulled in through an intake valve, then pushed out through an output valve. Diaphragm pumps are self-priming (meaning they develop suction and prime themselves when dry), can be run dry without damage, and are better able to push water uphill than centrifugal pumps. As to downsides, they can’t move as much water as a comparable centrifugal pump and most can’t tolerate even small bits of trash or debris, which can lodge in the pump’s valves, causing leaks or failure.

Nothing beats the simplicity and pumping power of a centrifugal pump. However, diaphragm pumps can be a better choice where water has to be pumped more than a few feet uphill, and they can be installed in a drier, more convenient place than the bottom of the bilge. Adding a filter before the pump to remove debris reduces the risk of failure.

Do You Have Enough Capacity?

Now that you know how different bilge pumps work, the next step is determining how many and what size your boat should have. The first thing to understand when shopping for a bilge pump is that just because a pump is rated to pump 1,000 gallons per hour (gph) that doesn’t mean it will. See the “Bilge Pump Capacity: Do The Math” to figure out how much a bilge pump is likely to actually move when installed on your boat compared to its rated capacity.

So how much pumping capacity should your boat have? It’s a good question, but one with no clear or easy answer, mainly because boats are so different. Any compartment that’s essentially watertight (i.e. where water can’t drain into another area) should have its own pump or two. While the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) hasn’t set requirements concerning bilge pump capacity, the American Bureau of Shipping recommends one 24-gallon-per-minute (gpm) pump — or about 1,440 gph — and one 12-gpm (720 gph) pump for boats under 65 feet. To me, it’s a simple case of bigger is better — within reason, of course. Based on size alone, I’d recommend a minimum of 5,500 gph pumping capacity for a 40-foot vessel, divided among a 1,500-gph primary pump and two 2,000-gph backup pumps. I’d also throw a high-volume manual pump in the mix for good measure, since all that pumping capacity will be useless if something happens to your batteries.

Based on this, you’ll probably find you don’t have enough pump capacity. If you decide to install more, make sure to follow tips below. And if you are happy with what you have, take a look to see if your current bilge pump needs a bit more respect.

Are Your Bilge Pumps Installed To Minimize Problems?

The first step on the path to bilge pump nirvana is making sure your boat’s bilge is clean and free of trash and debris. Routine bilge cleaning is a fact of life for older boats, but even that new boat you’re purchasing can have a bilge littered with pump-clogging bits of construction material — wood shavings, bits of fiberglass, and gobs of epoxy. Oily bilge residue should also be cleaned up and disposed of properly. In addition to the ecological concerns of accidentally pumping it overboard, oil combines with dirt to form a gooey sludge that can clog pumps and prevent float switches from operating properly. In addition, some newer bilge pumps are designed not to pump automatically if they sense oil in the water, so keep those bilges clean!

Photo of a trashy bilge pumpNo pump can work properly in a bilge choked with trash and debris.

Photo of a sludge-laden bilge pumpOil combines with dirt to form a gooey sludge that can clog pumps and prevent float switches from operating.

Use smooth-walled marine-grade hose for pump discharge runs and secure them at each end with marine-grade stainless steel hose clamps. Hoses should be routed as directly as possible to their discharge thru-hull and should also be properly supported (approximately every 18 inches) to prevent chafe and excessive movement. Speaking of discharge thru-hulls, they should be situated well above the waterline to prevent water from siphoning back into the bilge. Siphon breaks and riser loops are also recommended and should reach at least 18 inches above static waterline where possible.

If your bilge pump uses a flapper style automatic float switch, it must be securely mounted and installed so that the floating-arm is clear of wires, hoses and other obstructions that could impede its operation. Orient the switch fore and aft, with the flapper pointed toward the stern. This is especially important on powerboats — during jackrabbit takeoffs, surging bilge water can damage the flapper mechanism. Installing them close to a bulkhead or frame also helps protect the switch from a torrent of water. Enclosed switches eliminate this worry, but they’re difficult to inspect and test. Regardless of the type you choose, make sure each pump has a manual switch as well; none of the automatic systems are failsafe.

Make sure all bilge pumps not only have intake strainers or strum boxes installed, but that they can be easily reached and cleared of debris. As a marine surveyor I often see centrifugal-style pumps mounted beneath engines and completely inaccessible, even to simply clean the strainer — if your boat has similarly inaccessible pumps, relocate them for better access.

Photo of common bilge pump problemsCommon bilge pump problems include physical damage, loose hoses and failure to securely mount the pump to ensure proper orientation.

ABYC standards require circuit protection for each bilge pump. You can do this by powering them through the primary DC circuit breaker panel, but then you’ll have the potential problem of someone inadvertently killing power to the pumps by turning off the primary battery switch. To prevent this, you can also wire each through a dedicated fuse to the “all” or hot terminal of the battery switch (the one that’s always energized) or even directly to the battery itself. The battery switch option ensures the pump can draw power from both batteries, rather than limiting them to one. An even better option is installing a small, dedicated bilge pump breaker panel (which has the added benefit of keeping all bilge pump fuses and breakers together and easily accessible). This panel would then be wired directly to the battery switch, bypassing the primary DC circuit breaker panel.

When wiring your bilge pump, ensure all electrical connections are located well above normal bilge water levels (to reduce corrosion issues) and properly terminated with marine-grade connectors — leave those wire nuts and electrical tape joints at home! Finally, while it’s fine to go with oversized wire, don’t upsize the fuse. The BoatUS Marine Insurance claim files include many fire claims caused by centrifugal bilge pumps that overheated when something got caught in the rotor assembly and the fuse didn’t blow because the installer thought a slightly bigger fuse would be better. When it comes to fuse size, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations exactly.

What Maintenance Should I Be Doing?

Problems with centrifugal pumps typically involve clogging, defective automatic float switches (if installed), or corroded electrical connections, a common problem with any electrical gear installed in corrosive environment of a vessel’s bilge. Maintenance is generally limited to clearing the strainer (centrifugal pumps have one built into the base) and waterproofing all connectors. When it comes to repair, with the exception of the larger, rebuildable units, most centrifugal pumps are so inexpensive that it usually costs less to replace a damaged pump than repair it.

Maintenance and repair of diaphragm pumps typically involve opening up the pump body, clearing the pump chamber of debris, and checking the diaphragm and valves for damage or deterioration. Other than clogging, most problems will be caused by torn or damaged check valves. The diaphragms can also fail though they will typically outlast several valve changes. Pump disassembly for maintenance is normally straightforward; however, some are more complex than others (multi-chambered units, for example), so be sure to read all instructions carefully to avoid common mistakes, such as improper orientation of check valves during installation.

So give that bilge pump a little respect, and it will keep your bilge dry and maybe even keep your boat afloat long enough for you to figure out where that water’s coming from! 

Captain Frank Lanier has over 30 years of experience in the marine and diving industries, holds a 100GT master’s license, and is a SAMS-accredited marine surveyor.

— Published: January 2015

This article was reprinted with permission from Frank Lanier and BoatU.S. Magazine, the flagship publication of the Boat Owners Association of The United States. For the online editions, membership, insurance, and towing information, visit” To visit Frank Lanier’s website, go to


Navigation Primer: The Rules of the Road


SUP enthusiasts must operate with “defensive” paddling, proper gear, and know your limits.

The Navigation Rules are much like the rules of the road on the highway. They establish a consistent way to navigate safely and avoid collisions when two boats are crossing paths, are on course to meet head-on, or when one boat wishes to overtake another.

Since collisions are the number one type of accident on the water, boaters should remember these basic navigation rules. For basic awareness training on many of the “Rules of the Road” take a boating safety course.  The Marine Board has three approved internet courses, in addition to classroom or equivalency exam options that cover all of the navigation rules, waterway markers, sound signals and scenarios with other water recreationists.

Please note, navigation rules generally do not use the term “right of way.” Instead vessels are directed to “stay out of each others way.” A vessel required to stay out of the way of another vessel is called the “give-way” vessel and the one that should maintain its course and speed is referred to as the “stand-on” vessel.

Post a lookout. Designate someone to watch for dangers that may come from any direction.

Image of a personal watercraft after colliding with a tree stump while operating too fast near shore.

Image of a personal watercraft after colliding with a tree stump while operating too fast near shore.

Maintain a safe speed. Except where speed is restricted
 by regulation or the waterway is marked by a “No Wake”
or “Slow Speed” marker, you must judge “safe speed” for
yourself, taking into account visibility, vessel traffic, your boat’s ability to maneuver, and the weather conditions.  Oregon also has a statewide “proximity rule,” requiring operators to observe slow-no wake , within 200′ of a boat ramp, marina or moorage with a capacity of 6 or more boats; a floating home moorage with 6 or more structures; or people working at water level.  Operators may be liable for damage caused by wake.  (Definition of slow-no wake: Operating a boat at the slowest speed necessary to maintain steerage and that reduces or eliminates waves that appear as white water behind the boat.)

Motorboat collisionAvoid a collision. The Rules of the Road include the actions to take when encountering another vessel on the water. Some of the most common situations you may encounter are: 1) overtaking, 2) meeting head on, and 3) crossing the bow of another boat. In each case, the boat designated as the “give-way” vessel is required to yield to the other boat, while the boat designated as the “stand-on” vessel should maintain its course and speed. When meeting another boat, a boat operator is not required to “make early and substantial changes to their course” unless there is a risk of collision (reciprocal or nearly reciprocal) – they may be able to just stay on course. If there is a risk of collision, then the boat operator must change the course and/or speed of the boat.

  1. Overtaking: The give-way vessel can pass on either side of the stand-on vessel, but must remain well clear of that vessel.
  1. Meeting head on: When meeting another vessel head on, a port-to-port passing is preferred. Passing starboard-to-starboard is acceptable when necessary.
  1. Crossing situation: In a crossing situation, the give-way vessel must act to avoid a collision. This may include altering its course to pass astern of the stand-on vessel or slowing down or both. The stand-on vessel should maintain its course and speed.

Additional Resources:

Boat Oregon Mandatory Education Options (Classroom, Internet, Equivalency Exam)

Federal Navigation Regulations by subject

The Navigation Center for Excellence

USCG’s Division of Boating Safety

USCG Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook

USCG Aids to Navigation System (ATON) Brochure

Remember -as a boat operator, always take early and substantial action to avoid a collision and always drive defensively. 

What’s Happening with Hendrick’s Bridge Boat Ramp?

Where We are Now with the Hendricks Bridge Boating Facility Improvement Project

Managed by Lane County Parks, Hendricks Bridge on the McKenzie River is a favorite launch and retrieval point for many recreational drift boaters and local fishermen. This river is known as a prime spot for trout and steelhead fishing and fly fishing enthusiasts.  With all of this great fishing, the time has come for a make over for the well-used and well-loved boating facility, known as “Hendricks Bridge.”

Background and Need

Image of the steep drop-off of the ramp during low water periods.

The steep drop-off of the ramp during low water periods.

In 2008, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Lane County and Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB) staff started hearing complaints and concerns from recreational boaters that the old asphalt boat ramp was difficult to use and needed to be replaced. The asphalt ramp is breaking apart and a large portion of the lower section (boat ramp toe) is missing leaving a dangerous drop off. The ramp runs perpendicular to the river with the current cutting across, making it challenging for launching and retrieving. Boaters also commented that the parking spaces were short and narrow and some additional boat trailer parking space would be appreciated. We also noticed that the restroom and parking area were not ADA compliant and would need to be included with the other boating improvements.

Gathering Facts and Perspectives

View of the boat ramp during survey work.

View of the boat ramp during survey work.

Lane County received an OSMB grant to complete an archeological survey and report to determine if there were areas on the property that needed to be avoided. This was completed November 2013.

OSMB staff completed land and water survey and developed some concepts that were discussed with Lane County and ODFW. The concepts were further refined and shared with boaters and anglers at the April 28, 2014 public meeting.

Comments from the public were both constructive and insightful, providing direction on how the boat ramp should be angled downstream with an area that boats could stage without blocking the ramp while they waited for tow vehicles. The downstream angle made launching and retrieving more manageable. Staff identified that a hydraulic analysis would need to be completed to evaluate the downstream boat ramp angle for scour and sedimentation as well as, the impact to the bridge pier.

Lane County received an OSMB grant to replace the restroom with an ADA accessible flush restroom and sidewalks.   This was completed in March 2015. The County requested and received additional OSMB grant funds to complete the hydraulic analysis. This specialized analysis and report was completed in August 2015. The County has also received ODOT clearance and initiated County Planning Department review.

The design concept for the expanded parking lot.

The design concept for the expanded parking lot.

Based on the results from the hydraulic analysis the design was modified and presented to the public on February 11, 2016. Boaters and anglers agreed that the revised concept would significantly improve launching and retrieving from the boat ramp. OSMB and County staff explained that making the boating facility improvements would take time and the design would be reviewed and commented on by several regulatory agencies, which would add to the timeline. Boaters who attended this meeting agreed that these changes would be worth the wait.

What’s Happening Now and What’s Next

This project still has a long way to go before boat ramp construction can begin, but we want to keep you apprised with the developments as permits are approved and consultations are completed.

Below is a table identifying many of the permits and consultations that will be needed before construction can commence. If everything goes according  to plan, boaters will have a new boat ramp with expanded parking within the next three years. OSMB staff will update this table each time a milestone has been reached:

What When Completed
DSL and Corps Permit application submitted May 2016
DSL Permit Issued Early 2018
Corps Permit Issued Winter 2018
DEQ 401 Water Quality Certification Permit Issued Summer 2018
Endangered Species Consultation Completed Summer 2018
County Riparian Setback Area Development Plan Winter 2017
Tribal Consultation Completed Fall 2018
State Historic Preservation Consultation Completed Fall 2018
County applies for grants from OSMB and ODFW January 2019
Construction Begins Summer 2019

A lot of time and planning have been invested into this project by Lane County, OSMB, ODFW and the boaters who advocated for this facility replacement. When it is completed, this will be a “new” facility that will be easier to use, safer for boaters launching or retrieving and less maintenance for the county, which ultimately saves money. Although it seems like a long time to make this all happen, every facility improvement is worth the effort.

About the Marine Board

The Marine Board is funded by registration fees and marine fuel taxes paid by recreational boaters. No general fund tax dollars are used to support the agency or its programs. Boater-paid fees go back to boaters in the form of law enforcement services (on-the-water enforcement, training and equipment) education/outreach materials and boating access facilities.



Guest Blogger -Reminiscing 2016’s Summer Cruise on the Columbia River

Ken Tennefoss and Kramer with friends, cruising on a beautiful Oregon day.

Ken Tennefoss and Kramer with friends, cruising on a beautiful Oregon day.

-by Ken Tennefoss, Cruising Boat Oregon Advisory Team Member

We spent eleven days cruising the lower Columbia River from Portland to Astoria in our boat this summer.  What a wonderful time we had!  It is a trip we have made several times, and is one of our favorites.  I can’t think of too many other things I would rather be doing than sitting at the helm of Mucho Gusto on a summer day, motoring along one of the largest rivers in North America.

We are so fortunate to live in a state with such abundant recreational areas and variety of waterways.  Although the river levels were low, we were still able to find plenty of areas to anchor and play in with our water toys.  The fishing was good and the weather, for the most part, cooperated.

Bald eagle on the Columbia River.

Bald eagle on the Columbia River.

We began our trip by heading down-stream from Portland on the Multnomah Channel.   We had only gone a couple of miles before we saw our first bald eagle, one of several we saw on our trip.  The salmon were running, so there were quite a few boats on the channel all plying for the “catch of the day.”  While we had to make course changes a few times to avoid getting too close to anglers, the cruise to St. Helens was uneventful and along the way we were able to watch a couple of anglers catch bright chinook salmon.

Over the first few days, we anchored with a few other boats in a peaceful backwater cove off the Columbia River, near Goble.  The water was warm and the company was fun.  One of the highlights is a quick dingy ride to the Goble store for an ice cream treat.   

Our next destination was to the waters behind Lord and Walker Islands, just a mile or so downstream from Rainier.  It’s a favorite spot for both water skiers and cruisers but on one particularly calm morning, I took some memorable pictures of a skier cutting across the mirror-like surface in the early morning sunrise.  Waterskiers seek out flatwater in back island areas that are protected from the wind and wave chop. 

Beautiful sunrise from the water.

Beautiful sunrise from the water.

Our next run down-stream was longer, cruising toward Cathlamet Bay, behind Tongue Point.  We anchored just in time to view a spectacular blazing sky of reds and pinks as the sun dipped behind the hills above Astoria. The next day, we explored the tidal flats which are a labyrinth of small channels and back waters that are ideal for exploring in a kayak or small boat. It’s easy to feel like Lewis and Clark, wondering what lies around the next turn.

I admit I sometimes take for granted this great recreation resource and forget that without proper management and funding, it could easily be lost.  Oregon is fortunate to have a single agency that regulates the waterways and also works with facility providers to ensure there’s boating access to the variety of waterways in the state.  Oregon’s State Marine Board is funded by boat title and registration fees and according to the agency’s web site, it’s mission is “Serving Oregon’s recreational boating public through education, enforcement, access, and environmental stewardship for a safe and enjoyable experience.”  I’ve come to recognize as a member of one of the Marine Board’s advisory teams, that boaters need to help by giving the Board feedback on our likes and dislikes, so they can continue to provide services and keep making Oregon a great place to play.  I encourage all users of our waters to let the OSMB know what they are doing right, as well as your thoughts on how they can make improvements.  That way, generations to come will have an opportunity to enjoy Oregon’s lakes, rivers, bays and ocean. 

By the way, if you want to share your thoughts or experiences on boating in Oregon, this OSMB blog is a great place to do that. It’s also a great place to go to read other people’s input.  If you’re not sure where to go or where to put in, the Marine Board has an interactive map on their website that shows where all the boat ramps are in the state.  This is a great place to start planning your summer adventures. 

-Ken Tennefoss

For more information about the Marine Board and to find a boat ramp near you, visit