The following paragraphs will provide you with eight pointers to avoid collisions on the water:
Always keep a proper lookout. Remember that "improper lookout" and "operator inattention or
carelessness" are the most frequent causes for collisions reported to the Coast Guard. If. passengers are seated where they block your view from the helm, have them sit someplace else.
Become knowledgeable on the "Rules of the Road" and once you know them, navigate your boat defensively. Many people report they figured "it was the other guy who would alter course or reduce speed to avoid the collision." The Coast Guard book available on Amazon on this link for $14.95 "Navigation Rules, International and Inland" is a must read if you are going to be a responsible boater.
Use the Danger Zone Concept. Most control stations are located on the starboard side of the vessel so you have an unobstructed view of the danger zone. Although the danger zone concept is not specifically mentioned in the Rules of the Road, it is a very helpful way to remember who is the "Stand On" vessel and who is the "Give Way" vessel in a crossing situation.
Your boat's danger zone extends from a point dead ahead to a point 22.5 degrees aft of your starboard beam (which happens to be the same horizontal arc as your boat's green sidelight. If you are underway and you see another vessel within the danger zone, the other vessel is the "Stand On" vessel and you must "Give Way" by altering your course or speed to avoid a collision.
Keep to the starboard side of a channel giving larger vessels restricted by their draft, the benefit of deeper water in the center of the channel.
Operators of powerboats should slow down in congested waterways. The presence or absence of a posted speed limit isn't the only factor you should use in selecting an appropriate speed. Be considerate of slower vessels, and vessels at anchor or under sail whose passengers should be given the minor courtesy of reducing your vessel's wake to a tolerable minimum.
Use a speed or setting which minimizes your time in the "bow up" attitude. If your boat has an adjustable motor bracket, trim tabs or an adjustable lower unit, setting the trim properly will. help accomplish a bow down attitude.
Captains operating sailboats should try to avoid sailing through channels where larger vessels which may be restricted in their ability to maneuver by virtue of their size, windage, draft, susceptibility to current, etc, are least prepared for technicalities involving who has the right of way. Sailboarders should remember that they too are subject to the Rules of the Road, just like any other vessel.
The skipper of a sailboat underway under sail should have at least one member of the crew maintaining a proper lookout, particularly in relation to the actions of other boats astern and to leeward. The statistics show that improper lookout is five times more likely to cause a collision involving auxiliary sailboats than weather or water conditions.
Operators of personal watercraft are reminded that according to Rule 14 (Head-on Situation, "When two power-driven vessels are meeting on reciprocal courses so as to involve risk of collision, each shall alter her course to starboard so that each shall pass on the port side of the other."
Many operators of personal watercraft who have filed accident reports following collisions reported that they didn't know which way to turn in the moments prior to the accident. Personal watercraft operators would be wise to ask customers who are about to rent their boats whether they are aware of this basic requirement under the Rules of the Road.