Basic boating rules include observing the right of way, following life jacket safety protocols and complying with navigation sound guidelines. Different rules apply depending on the size or location of the boat.
Right-of-way rules govern how boats approach each other. Boats approaching perpendicularly from the right, or starboard side, of a vessel are called stand-on vessels, while boats approaching from the left, or port side, are called give-way vessels. In this situation, stand-on vessels have right of way, and give-way vessels must slow down or change course to avoid collision. When boats approach each other head-on, both boats must steer starboard to avoid each other.
All boats must have a sound signaling device for communicating direction or distress. Smaller boats need only one device, such as a whistle or air horn, while boats longer than 39.4 feet must have both a bell and whistle.
Boats must have one approved life jacket for each passenger. Life jackets must meet U.S. Coast Guard buoyancy requirements and should be easily accessible, in good condition, and sized for both adults and children.