Coast Guard Auxiliary Reports

While we do not often see barges in our area, you may find yourselves in areas where they are more prevalent. This part two of two on Safely Sharing our Waterways with Tugs and Barges written by Paul Barnard of U.S. Coast Guard Heartland Safe Boating. The information has been edited to share relevant information to our area.
Let’s apply some of this information from last week to help with collision avoidance. On any waterway where there are tugs pushing barges, boaters must maintain a sharp lookout for them and their unique lights. If recreational boat operators see a special flashing yellow light approaching, they should move out of the way. The boaters can tell that they have passed and are clear of the push boat’s stern when the two amber lights on the stern in a vertical row become visible. If boaters must overtake a vessel showing two amber lights in a vertical row, they should not move back in front until they are well clear of the special flashing yellow light on the lead barge. Don’t move back in front at all unless necessary.
I should probably mention that the two white lights in a row identify the vessel as a towing vessel. It can mean that the vessel is towing something behind it rather than pushing barges ahead, but that’s not very common on inland waters, it’s not where we are seeing collisions and not the focus of this article.
Let’s touch on some other best practices for operating at night. SLOW down. We need to protect our night vision by dimming our gauge, panel and electronics lights to their lowest visible level. Turn off all other lights that are not navigation lights prescribed by law. A focused beam spotlight, kept ready at hand, can be used intermittently to identify hazards. After leaving a bright environment, boaters should give their eyes at least 15 minutes to adapt to the dark. By maintaining light discipline, our night vision can be quite good.
The continuous use of LED light bars, and other such auxiliary lights, will diminish the night vision of those on the boat displaying them and the night vision of people on vessels the lights are directed toward. Those auxiliary lights often obscure the navigation lights of the vessel using them as well. Both of those are violations of the Navigation Rules. Boaters who operate frequently at night should consider a radar and night vision equipment. Recreational boaters who frequently operate in rivers and the Intracoastal Waterway should have a VHF radio and keep a listening watch on Channel 16 as well as the established ship’s bridge to ship’s bridge radio channel for their area.
Avoid lingering in and near choke points such as bridges and the entrance and exits to locks. Likewise, avoid lingering in blind bends and waterway intersections and always anticipate other vessels to be coming from the area that is blind to you. Large commercial vessels sometimes produce large wakes. Because these vessels often need to maintain speed to maintain adequate steering, and because they can’t quickly slow, recreational boaters must be prepared to encounter such wakes on the waterways they share.
Thanks to Sherrie, we will always remember safe boating is no accident!

If you would like to learn more about vessel safety checks, please contact Steve Hults, Staff Officer for Vessel Examinations at

Please contact us for more information about our safe boating classes or learning more about getting involved in the Auxiliary, check out our website at follow us on FaceBook @ Apalachee Bay Flotilla 12 or contact our Flotilla Commander Phil Hill at

Please contact us to learn more about getting involved in the Auxiliary, check out our website at follow us on FaceBook @ Apalachee Bay Flotilla 12 or contact our Flotilla Commander Phil Hill at

The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed civilian volunteer component of the U.S. Coast Guard and supports the Coast Guard in nearly all mission areas. The Auxiliary was created by Congress in 1939. For more information, please visit