Coast Guard: Little boats must yield in channel
Written by Muskegon Chronicle   
Monday, 11 September 2006 15:44

After multiple complaints about small anchored fishing boats obstructing commercial traffic in the Muskegon Channel, the Coast Guard is increasing patrols to promote awareness of the rules of the water.

While every boat has an equal right to use the channel, some boaters are unaware of the hazards of anchoring there, said Mike Beatty, chief of the Muskegon Coast Guard Station.

"For a 1,000-foot freighter to come to a complete stop, even though it appears it is moving slowly, can take two or three ship lengths or more," Beatty said. "If you are anchored in the middle of the channel, it may be difficult to get your anchor up in time to get out of the way."

According to U.S. Coast Guard navigation rules, it is illegal to anchor a boat in the channel at any time. The only exception is if a boat's motor has failed, in which case the boater must contact the Coast Guard or other towing service to move the boat as soon as possible.

Beatty said the basic rule is that any boat that has to go down the middle of the channel because of its size, including large commercial freighters and others such as the Lake Express ferry, have the right of way over smaller vessels. It is the responsibility of the smaller boats to move for the larger ships, Beatty said.

"There have been several incidents recently in which the operations of Lake Express have been impeded by recreational vessels," said Jeff Fleming, spokesman for Lake Express. "In some cases, these recreational boats have been anchored, blocking the narrow channel into Muskegon.

"In at least one incident, hundreds of passengers aboard Lake Express were delayed when a small private fishing vessel refused to give way in the channel, that required Lake Express to come to a full stop in what is supposed to be an open shipping lane."

 

 
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