3 Cardinal Rules
You won’t find these in the official Rules of the Road, but they should be branded on the brains of every boater on any water.
 Do Your Homework - Don’t wait to look at your chart (you do have one, right?) while you’re plying new water. Highlight your course in advance. Circle hazards that look like they might be easy to miss. Plan distances and fuel burn. The more you can anticipate beforehand, the less you’ll stress when in motion. Update your chart by using the Local Notices to Mariners, updated weekly and available at navcen.uscg.gov.
 Give Yourself Another 50 Percent - When it looks like a three-hour run, give yourself 4½ hours. Adding in an extra 50 percent of time sounds like a lot, until you get held up at the locks or you have to unclog the bilge or the no-wake zone goes on and on. Things happen. Boaters should never be in a position where they have to push the clock.
 It’s Smart to Stop - If you don’t know the water or the marker, you need to be in neutral. Ego only gets boaters into trouble. Stop. Study the chart again. If you still aren’t sure, go back to familiar water. And never get stuck navigating new or challenging water at night. That’s asking for trouble.
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