Navigating Safely

How to prepare for unforeseen navigational hazards.

If you’ve been boating for any length of time, you know that waterways — both inland and, especially, coastal — are in a constant state of flux. This happens due to both natural and man-made causes. When navigating, boaters must be cognizant of things like displaced buoys, rerouted channels, underwater hazards, new markers or shifting sandbars and shoals. But how does one do this? There are a couple of ways.

Navigation Center: Perhaps the easiest way is to monitor the U.S. Coast Guard's online Navigation Center ( There, you'll find Local Notices to Mariners (LNMs), which are issued by district on a weekly basis and advise of navigation irregularities. LNMs not only caution about aids to navigation (ATONs), but they even inform boaters when drawbridge clearances are reduced or when events, such as fireworks displays, are taking place.

Chart Updates: It's equally crucial for mariners to keep their electronic charts updated in the boat. Chart makers generally update their charts from LNMs, and companies such as Jeppesen offer updated C-Map charts two or three times per year. These charts can be purchased as chips — or for processor- based units, such as Furuno's NavNet 3D displays, they can be downloaded from the Internet to an SD card and then uploaded into the display. Bingo, you're in business and able to identify any potential navigation hazards.