When Is a Lookout on a Vessel Required?
Every ship “must at all times keep a proper watch by sight and hearing as well as by all available methods appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a comprehensive assessment of the situation and of the risk of collision,” according to the International Maritime Organization. You are accountable for that as the boat’s operator.
Rule 5 requires that every vessel “shall at all times maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions to make a full appraisal of the situation and the risk of collision.” As a boat operator, that’s your responsibility. It doesn’t matter if you are an experienced or novice sailor; safety is the most important aspect of boating. Safety is critical, and so is safe for other boats and people on the water. So when do you need one, and why?
It would help if you always kept an eye out while boating. You, or someone else on your boat, must constantly be alert for any boats, other boats, or other obstacles.
Two meanings of a lookout are possible. The first refers to monitoring the environment, and the second refers to someone on the boat watching out for potential obstacles. First, let’s look at the type of lookout you should have on your boat.
What is a lookout?
A lookout was once an important post on a ship. In movies, the lookout was the man you could see with a binocular at the top of every ship.
This post is still in existence, but they no longer need to climb the ship’s top. Instead, they can now stay in a cabin with monitors.
However, personal boats are smaller and less well-equipped than larger ships.
Every vessel, no matter how small or large, must observe the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions At Sea (Rule 5) at all times.
Rule 5 of the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea states that “Every vessel shall at any time maintain a proper watch by sight and sound as well as using all appropriate means in the prevailing conditions , to assess the situation and the risk of collision.”
What a Lookout Does on a Personal Boat
You, the driver, can also be a lookout if you have a smaller boat.
You can see the entire boat from a pontoon, bowrider, or bass boat, so the driver must be able to perform the role of the lookout.
It would help if you kept a good eye on the surrounding environment. This is the rule. However, it doesn’t mean you have to have someone on board to perform that role. You can be the driver but also serve as a lookout.
Even if your lookout post is sufficient, it’s a brilliant idea to inform other passengers to let them know if there are any obstacles or things you missed.
How to keep a better eye on your health
It’s not just about following the rules but also about your safety. Therefore, it is essential to be as efficient as you can. Here are some tips to help you keep an eye on things.
Instruct Your Passenger Properly
As I have already mentioned, it can be constructive to instruct passengers to act as lookouts. However, if you don’t correctly instruct your passengers, this may not always work out as planned.
It is essential to let them know what to look for. For example, they should inform you if a large vessel is approaching your boat, if you haven’t seen a person in the water, or if someone is doing water sports too close to the boat.
Many people don’t understand what a lookout reports, so they may be unable to tell the difference. Therefore, you should discuss these things quickly with them.
From my own experience, another tip is to let children know that they don’t have to be a watchman. They can get distracted and end up looking at every boat they see.
Add a camera
Keeping a boat in a straight line can be challenging when acting as both a driver and a lookout. Therefore, you might also need to monitor what is happening behind the boat.
Any outdoor wireless camera will work, so you don’t have to buy a fancy camera. However, it is essential that the camera can be connected to your smartphone and is waterproof.
This outdoor wireless camera is an excellent option if you don’t already have one. It’s the same model I have used on my boat for the past two decades and works flawlessly. In addition, it is waterproof and wireless.
You are doing your best to keep an eye on the water, but most boaters are also trying to stay safe. Therefore, it is essential not to make it difficult for them.
Make sure your boat and you are visible from all sides. Avoid colors that blend in with the surroundings. If you do get into the water, make sure you have a visible jacket. Bright green and orange are the best choices.
Last, I want to mention that you must be cautious when driving your boat. You might not be able to avoid obstacles if you drive too fast.
Other boats can find it difficult to avoid you at breakneck speeds.
Maintaining a proper lookout log.
A proper lookout log on a vessel is essential to safe operations. When operating in the vicinity of another vessel, the lookout must be vigilant for any obstructions or hazards and should be recorded in a TVR or an official logbook. In addition to recording the conditions in which the lookout failed, the log must also include relevant factors such as the current weather conditions, visibility, and proximity of other vessels.
All vessels are required to maintain a proper lookout. In addition to looking for other vessels, lookouts must also monitor radio communications, navigational hazards, and other activities on the water. A lookout should maintain a safe speed. This is important because even a slight difference in speed can cause an accident. Proper lookout logs can save lives. This is particularly true during severe weather conditions and when there are several vessels nearby.
The duty of a lookout is a major one. It is often thought of as a management philosophy that is intended to apply in any situation that may arise while underway. Proper lookout is a dynamic concept, meaning captains must be prepared to adapt it to various conditions. For example, fog, darkness, traffic congestion, concentrated fishing fleet, and trap buoys may alter their lookout.
A proper lookout is vital to safety on the water. The lookout is required whether the vessel is the sole operator or is manned by another person. A proper lookout should be capable of assessing the situation on the water and reducing speed as needed. Depending on the size of the vessel, the lookout can also be the master or another crew member. If there is no second operator on board, the lookout may be a full-time employee, and the responsibilities are split evenly.
Keeping eyes and ears open to observe or affect safety
Keeping eyes and ears open to observe or influence safety on a vessel is critical. The granddaddy of all boating rules, the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea, states that the operator must maintain a clear and unobstructed view of the water. The operator must constantly scan the area for flags, swimmers, and floating debris.
Keeping out of the way of a vessel being overtaken
When a vessel is overtaking another, the overtaking vessel must keep out of the way. Whether the overtaking vessel is propelled by wind, oars, or a rubber band paddlewheel, it must come up to a point more than 22.5 degrees aft beam. The overtaking vessel will display a stern white light, which the overtaking vessel must see.
This part of the rules governing overtaking explains the rules for passing another vessel. The overtaking vessel must keep out of the way of the overtaking vessel or “give way.” Unlike passing a ship on its port side, a vessel may pass on its starboard side to avoid the traffic of another vessel. However, overtaking a ship on its port side is only permitted under highly hazardous circumstances.
Generally, vessels are supposed to stay out of the way of another vessel unless they are in a collision. If this happens, the vessel being overtaken must take action early and substantially. The vessel must maintain its course and speed and avoid collision with the vessel overtaking it. The overtaking vessel must also maintain its speed and course if it does not want to be overtaken by another ship.
A boat is also required to keep out of the way of another vessel if it is not under the command of its operator. If a Joe boater slips, he cannot control the boat and may have to steer it while it cannot turn, resulting in the steering cable breaking. When this happens, the captain is guilty of negligence if the vessel is not in control of its steering.
A vessel’s actions to avoid a collision must be positive, easy to observe, and by the requirements of good seamanship. Changes in course and speed must be noticeable to the overtaking vessel. Make significant, early changes in course and speed to prevent a collision. If the other vessel can’t see your action, pass astern.
Keeping out of the way of a vessel with the wind on the port side
Keeping out of the way of a boat with the wind on the port side is a legal requirement for all vessels. There are many rules and regulations about the proper way to maneuver a boat in a confined channel. The most important rule of thumb is that a vessel must give way to other vessels with the same right. If the vessel in front of you does not give way, it is an act of negligence.
First, if the overtaking vessel alters bearing, it is still not an overtaking vessel. Therefore, the overtaking vessel must stay clear of the overtaking vessel until it has passed. Therefore, a vessel in doubt must assume that a crossing situation exists. In this case, a vessel must take action to avoid collision with the overtaking vessel. Secondly, it must avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel until the overtaking vessel has cleared the port side.
Another common issue with sailboats and the wind on the port side is the draft. A sailboat’s draft will limit its ability to make sharp turns, so if a power vessel is in the path of a sailing vessel, it should keep out of its way. Keeping out of the way of a vessel with the wind on the port side is especially important when it is windy.
If the vessel in front of you wants to overtake another vessel, you must be in the proper position and come up from a direction more than 22 degrees above the beam. If possible, it is best to see the sidelights and stern light of the vessel in front of you. In addition, it would help if you avoided any collisions. Being prepared to give way to the overtaking vessel is also essential.