Code of Conduct for Boat Owners and Users
(See also the
of Conduct for persons using Fast Water Craft (including Jet Skis ,Air Boats,
Hovercraft ,and Float Planes )
The purpose of this "Code of Conduct" is to encourage boaters and other waterways users to be more aware of their duties and responsibilities towards other users and the environment. It does not purport to cover all situations users may encounter but rather attempts to raise the level of awareness about the issues involved.
Some of the remarks apply to the general use of boats and others apply to navigation on the larger rivers and lakes.
- Obtain and use up to date navigation charts for the waterway you are using. (See publications section for details)
On rivers and lakes, follow the navigation marks carefully. On the Shannon System, Barrow Navigation and the western end of the Shannon-Erne Waterway, leave the Red, Circular, Marks on your Right and the Black, Rectangular Marks on your Left, going downstream and the reverse going upstream. On the Erne Navigation and the Eastern End of the Shannon-Erne Waterway from Keshcarrigan, the marks are Red and White Semi-circular Perches. One half of the marker is white, indicating the safe side on which to pass, while the other red half indicates the non-navigable side. By always passing to the white side of the marker, your safe passage is assured. On Lough Neagh and the River Bann, the marks are a circle/triangle combination. On the larger lakes such as Lough Ree and Lough Derg, the marks are numbered to help you establish your position.
- Keep to the marked channel when going under bridges. If more than one arch is marked for navigation, always use the one on the right.
- Give all markers a reasonable wide berth. Floating marks are on chains and the lie of the chain will vary with the current, wind etc. Stakes and perches may be mounted ON the snags they are marking ! Keep well clear of weirs. Some weirs, (e.g. on the Barrow) are not guarded and you may be pulled onto them inadvertently.
- Be careful when crossing larger lakes to stay within the channel. It is easy, in windy conditions to be blown of course. Watch the marks behind you as well as ahead. It is also easy on river sections, especially in flood conditions, to be tempted to go directly from one mark to the next. This does not always guarantee a safe passage.
- Ensure you have adequate headroom under bridges. Check the charts for details.
- Navigation outside the marks is dangerous without local knowledge. Admiralty charts are available for the larger lakes but they may not have been updated for many years. (See Publications Page)
- When meeting other craft, keep to your right. (However, if they are well clear of you do not cross in front of them just to "get on the right side")
- When overtaking other craft, leave them to your right.
- In confined waters, (e.g. at Portumna Bridge) downstream craft have right of way. Remember, in strong flows, craft coming downstream must be moving quickly to maintain steerage so give them room. Remember also that large craft have a lot of momentum and may find it difficult or impossible to stop in these situations.
- Power boats give way to sailing craft. However, skippers of small sailing craft such as dinghies and sail-boards should not insist on this right unnecessarily as forcing a larger craft to alter course suddenly or make a crash stop may itself cause an accident.
- Give fisherfolk a wide berth at all times. In boats, they may be trolling with long lines and if fishing from the bank, your wake or engine noise may disturb the fishing, or worse, swamp them or their gear.
- Slow down in confined waters. Slow means Engine at Tick-Over Only. 5km/Hr. or less.
- High speed craft should slow down substantially when passing or meeting other craft or give them a wide berth. If your craft generates substantial wash, you must leave ample room for your wash to settle when entering confined areas. This means that planing and semi-displacement craft should slow down several hundred metres before entering a confined area. IWAI strongly advocates a "No-Wake" policy in and around harbours and other confined areas. Be aware of the effect of your wash at all times. Remember, you may be liable if your wash damages another craft or causes injury.
- Do not navigate at night or in conditions of poor visibility.
- You must have appropriate lifejackets for everyone on board. They should be of the correct size and be in good condition. They should be worn whenever conditions dictate. For children, this means virtually all the time, even when on shore, near the water. Carry a couple of spare life-jackets for visitors and emergencies.
- Every boat should carry an anchor with adequate chain/warp to hold the craft in poor conditions. You should also have enough ropes of sufficient gauge to moor the boat safely. (With some to spare in the event of unforeseen circumstances.) Coil unused ropes neatly and secure them on deck so they can't trip people and so they don't end up in the water and foul the propeller.
- You should carry at least one (preferably more) life-rings, accessible from various parts of the boat. At least one should be fitted with a light line to allow it be thrown to a person in distress and hauled back aboard.
- Rig a safety line round the outside of the boat so it can be reached by someone who has fallen overboard. (Think of the loops of rope hanging from the gunwales of the old-style lifeboats.)
- All vessels using the larger rivers and lakes should have either flares or a large distress flag. (Code Sign "V" - I Require Assisstance - Red X on White Background) Make sure flares are in date. Remember they have a limited shelf life.
- All craft should carry adequate fire extinguishers appropriate to the potential hazards. Have them checked regularly. Have a fire-blanket available in the galley area. Smoke detectors are highly recommended.
- All craft should have a boarding ladder, bathing platform or other means of recovering someone from the water.
- On the larger lakes, it is advisable to tow or carry a dinghy for use in an emergency as well as for exploring less accessible areas. Don't rely on the outboard. Make sure the dinghy is fitted with oars or paddles.
- All craft should be fitted with bilge-pump of adequate capacity. In the event of a holing, give priority to stopping the water coming in. (Assuming this is possible without further endangering yourself or your crew.) A life-jacket, blanket, pillow, tarpaulin or whatever will go a long way to stemming the flow in many cases. Even a 25mm hole will admit an astonishing amount of water in a short time.
- Gas installations should be in copper pipe and properly maintained. Fit and use a gas detector. Never ignore a smell of gas - even if the detector does.
- Carry a good first-aid kit and learn how to use it. Do a first aid course with one of the recognised organisations.
- If you have a VHF (Very High Frequency) radio, learn how to use it properly, take the test and get an operators licence. You must get a ship's licence also. It is illegal to operate a VHF radio without an operator's license or install one on a vessel without a ship's license. Remember the PRIMARY use for VHF radios is for the safety of life at sea. Confine your use to essential traffic only. Your transmissions may be heard many miles away and could interfere with a distress situation you are unaware of. If you want to chatter, buy a cellphone.
- Listen to the weather forecasts before you set out, especially on the larger rivers and lakes. Listen to RTE or BBC Shipping Forecasts or phone Weatherdial. Forecast information is also available by listening to VHF Channel 16.
- Notify someone responsible of your destination and ETA before setting out on the larger rivers and lakes. This is especially important in smaller craft or if you are going single-handed.
- Know your boat and crew's limits and don't push them. It's better to stay ashore safe and sound and a bit disappointed than to attempt a trip and get into difficulties Don't overload your boat.
- Don't allow your crew to fend off with hands and feet. Especially with a larger boat. Use a fender. It's too easy to crush fingers and toes - even with a light boat.
- Carry enough fuel for the trip. ALWAYS check your fuel levels before you depart. Don't rely 100% on the gauge. Check with a dipstick or sight-glass as well. Store additional fuel only in approved containers.
- Carry out routine maintenance and regular checks on your boat. Carry essential spares and the necessary tools and learn how to use them. (Filters, belts, spark-plugs, pump impellers, fuses etc.)
- Every boat should have adequate third-part/public liability insurance. Make sure this covers the boat when it's out of the water or laid-up for the winter. Make sure it also covers the trailer, even if it's not in use.
- Stay well clear of swimmers in the water. "Buzzing" swimmers in an outboard powered dinghy is extremely dangerous and should not be tolerated. In some places, watch out for divers. Their support boat should carry an "A" flag. (White flag with a blue swallow-tail)
- Practice "Man-Overboard" routines before you need to do them for real. Make sure at least one other person knows how to handle the boat in these situations, it may be the skipper who goes overboard.
- If at all possible, have an emergency means of propulsion. This can be a bracket on the stern to take an outboard, or the dinghy lashed alongside with the outboard running.
- If you do get into difficulties in open water, STAY WITH THE BOAT as long as you can, even if it capsizes or starts to sink. It's much easier to find a boat, even a partially submerged one than a lone swimmer in the water.
- In a real emergency, (and only in a real emergency) attract attention using the VHF Radio (Channel 16), Cellular Phone (112), CB Radio (Channel 9), Flares, V-Flag etc.
- Don't swim after floating objects.
- If you are caught out on a lake in heavy weather seek shelter as soon as possible. The seas will usually be quieter closer to the windward shore so it makes sense to head that way if possible but be sure you have enough water underneath you. The boat will usually ride easier head to wind or perhaps stern to the wind, but be careful of the latter if you have an open cockpit or limited freeboard at the stern that the boat does not fill with water from the following waves. It is often possible to get to a safe harbour by steering a zig-zag course where you are more-or-less head or stern to the wind for large portions of time and you make your turns under the shelter of the wind-ward shore.
- Mooring lines should generally be set so as to avoid having a mass of rope on the jetty. Either splice a loop in the end of the rope and drop that over a bollard or take one end of the rope and pass it round the bollard or through the ring and fasten both ends on deck.
- All boats used on the inland waterways should be fitted with holding tanks or chemical toilets. Marine toilets that discharge effluent into the watercourse are now illegal on most inland waterways in Ireland. Dispose of the effluent only at appropriate pump-out stations.
- In harbours, use public toilets as much as possible.
- Don't pump oily bilge water into the watercourse. Find and fix the source of the oil. Clean out the bilge with oil absorbent material and dispose of correctly. Fit an oil trap to your bilge pump.
- Use only "Green" detergents and soaps on board.
- Leave all mooring places, banks, piers and the shore in pristine condition. Bring home or correctly dispose of all your rubbish. Plastic beer can holders should be cut up and disposed of carefully lest they entangle wild-life. Tidy up any litter you see. Set a good example. Recycle as much material as you can.
- Respect the wildlife. Remember that birds and animals are sensitive to noise and disturbance, especially during the breeding season.
- Keep your wash to a minimum in confined areas. On canals and narrow rivers especially, your wash can cause serious bank-erosion which affects the wildlife and also damages the navigation itself.
- Do not leave fishing hooks, weights and lines lying around. Children (and indeed adults) and wildlife can easily get entangled. Do NOT use lead fishing weights. They are lethal to swans and other wildlife if ingested.
- Keep dogs under control as required by law.
- Take care when re-fuelling to avoid spillages. Use a siphon rather than pouring from a large drum.
- Light fires and barbecues only where it is safe to do so. Ensure the fire is out before leaving. Be aware of the effect of your smoke. Dispose of the ash carefully.
- Moor economically. Take up as little space as you can. Be prepared to move to make room for boats ahead of and behind you.
- Allow craft with elderly people or young children to moor against the quay and be willing to move off to allow them to do so.
- In crowded harbours, be prepared to moor alongside others and encourage others to moor alongside you. (Aside from being economical with quay space, it's a great way to make new friends!) Always ask permission before coming alongside and make sure your boat is well fendered.
- Where a number of boats are "rafted" together, boats away from the quay should bring lines to the shore as well as to their neighbours. The cleats on the inner boats may not be up to the job and it will prevent the "raft" swinging about.
- Discourage dangerous horseplay among your crew, it can lead to tragedy.
- Your crew and passengers are your sole responsibility. You must make sure they are aware of basic safety drills and behaviour on board.
- Drinking and driving are as inappropriate in a boat as in a car. Save the "hard-tack" until the boat is securely tied up for the night. Never allow the use of illegal drugs aboard your boat. (Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is an offence.)
- Avoid running engines (or indeed generators) at anti-social hours.
- Observe the 5-day mooring rules.