North Carolina provides many recreational opportunities. In the summertime, many North Carolinians take to the water. We have the opportunity to enjoy the ocean, sounds, lakes and rivers. Water sports include many water vessels such as Jet Skis, Wave Runners (known as personal water crafts or PWCs), ski boats, pontoon boats and fishing boats.
The fun of the water sometimes makes us forget that whenever boaters are on the water, there is the potential for injury. When we drive, we follow the rules of the road. When we are on the water, we must follow the rules of the water. One primary water rule is to always go right when a watercraft approaches directly toward your vessel. If you are uncertain, slow the watercraft by easing off of the throttle.
Many recreational users cause collisions, particularly with PWCs, because of a lack of understanding of how a watercraft operates. A PWC can only be steered when the throttle is engaged. Since there is no rudder on a PWC you cannot change directions unless you also give the vehicle the gas. There are no brakes on a PWC.
Wildlife Enforcement Officers patrol waterways. They look for people who may be operating a boat dangerously and will stop your boat if they feel you are a threat to yourself or others. The rules that apply to land officers or different for water officers. Water officers do not need “probable cause” to stop your boat. A Wildlife Enforcement Officer may stop your vessel for a “safety inspection” to confirm you have the correct number of life vests and other emergency equipment. You may be stopped if your vessel is not properly registered or licensed. Similarly, you may be stopped if you are not following properly posted navigation aids such as “no wake zone” signs or channel markers.
The North Carolina Rules for Boating have recently changed. If you are under the age of 26, you need to complete a boating safety course. The course locations can be located online at www.ncwildlife.org.