Memorial Day Weekend Quiz: Do You Know These 7 Rules of the Water?

The Memorial Day holiday is, in many parts of America, the kickoff to the summer boating season. Right now, from Maine to the Carolinas, a lot of skippers are dusting off their chart plotters and trying to remember what the heck all of the buttons do.

It’s a good time for a refresher on the basic waterway rules of the road. Can you answer these seven questions, which are based on the U.S. Coast Guard’s navigation rules? (Answers can be found at the bottom of this page).

Ready for Memorial Day weekend? Let’s find out…

1: Your powerboat is heading straight for a powerboat that’s coming in the opposite direction. What do you do to avoid a collision?

a. Alter your course to port
b. Alter your course to starboard
c. Blare the horn until the other skipper blinks

2: True or false: Rule 33 says that boats, depending on their size, should have a whistle, a bell and/or a gong as a means of signaling to other boats via sound.

a. True
b. False

3: When cruising through a narrow channel, a skipper should keep his boat:

a. As far to starboard as is safely possible
b. Near the center, to avoid shoaling at the edges
c. On a constant heading toward the nearest beach bar

4: Cruising powerboats have to keep out of the way of:

a. Commercial fishing vessels, but only when they have actually caught some fish
b. Sailboats, but only when the winds are weak and the sails are fluttering
c. Sailing vessels, fishing vessels and vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver, such as cargo and cruise ships

5: Boats 40 feet length overall or smaller are allowed to:

a. Skip to the head of the line when awaiting a bridge opening alongside larger craft
b. Substitute an all-round white light and sidelights for a larger array with a masthead light and sternlight
c. Take guests waterskiing and tubing in busy thoroughfares

6: True or false: A yacht that is more than 328 feet long must illuminate her decks at anchor, in addition to having all-round white lights on display:

a. True
b. False

7: One short blast of a boat’s horn means:

a. I intend to leave you on my starboard side
b. I intend to leave you on my port side
c. Get out of the way, man; I’m late for a clambake

Answer Key:

  1. B
  2. A
  3. A
  4. C
  5. B
  6. A
  7. B


Written by: Kim Kavin

Kim Kavin is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who specializes in marine travel. She is the author of 10 books including Dream Cruises: The Insider’s Guide to Private Yacht Vacations, and is editor of the online yacht vacation magazine


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