Water Safety 

Search and Rescue 

First contact for search and rescue anywhere on the system is H.M. Coastguard via Channel 16 V.H.F. or telephone 999 and ask for Coastguard. The Coastguard are supported by the R.N.L.I. at Portrush, Lough Neagh Rescue at Kinnego, Ardboe and Antrim with various other organisations assisting. H.M. Coastguard also have a team of locally based Coastguards operating around Lough Neagh. Community Rescue Service operate on the Lower Bann and can be contacted via PSNI 999.

Boating Basics
These paragraphs iare designed for newcomers to boating, but we hope it will also be a handy reminder for the more experienced boaters.
Remember in an emergency anywhere on the system

Call The Coastguard On Channel 16 V.H.F.
Or Telephone 999 and Ask for Coastguard
Read this section before you set off, and keep it nearby for reference. Of course, you won't become an expert overnight just by reading - and it's impossible to cover every aspect of boating, every type of boat and every eventuality.
Courses in boat handling are an excellent investment. 

Who’s in charge?
One of the great things about boating is that everyone can muck in together. But at least one person needs to know the boat-handling basics and to understand the safety guidelines.

So, once you've chosen a 'skipper', it'll be his or her job to make sure your crew and passengers have all the information they need to stay safe.

Good boating takes teamwork. So you need competent crew who know how to handle the boat and how to stop the engine, and who can help with mooring, moving through locks navigation and so on. As well as knowing the procedures, your crew should be aware of the safety risks in each situation and how to avoid them. It's also a wise precaution to have a stand-in skipper in case of illness.
Passengers who aren't going to be helping with any of the work still need to read and understand the basic safety rules.  

Before setting off
Before you set off, take a few simple tips for trouble-free boating.
• Check your boat's in good condition and meets seaworthiness standards. Make sure you and your crew know how to handle the boat - and that you know how to handle it on the waterway you're using
• Get local information if possible before going onto unfamiliar waterways. On rivers, get information on stream conditions and any tides
• Plan your cruise and allow enough time to complete it without rushing
• It's not a good idea to cruise in the dark or when visibility's bad - if you must, take extra care
• Make sure that you have more than enough fuel for your intended cruise
• Make sure you've got a tank of clean water
• And remember - alcohol impairs your judgement and makes accidents more likely

  Equipment checklist
Make sure you have these aboard and know where to find these items:
• Lifebuoy, lifeline and enough lifejackets or buoyancy aids for all on board
• Anchor - the rope and chain together should be at least six times as long as the depth of water.
• Fire extinguishers and fire blanket
• Compass
• V.H.F. Radio and practical knowledge for use
• Flares
• Emergency shut-offs for battery, gas and fuel
• Charts and maps of where you intend to cruise
• Bilge pump
• Emergency light
• Mooring ropes - long enough to stretch from your boat to the bollard and back, even when you're in a deep lock
• Mooring stakes and hammer
• Horn
• First aid kit
• Boat pole or hook
• Gangplank and boarding ladder
• If possible GPS and practical knowledge for use
• Bucket and lanyard
• Fenders
• Mobile Telephone 

Rules of the road

 T he International Rules for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea apply on the Lower Bann, Lough Neagh and
 Associated Waterways.

“The following is intended as an aide memoir and not as a working knowledge of the International Rules.”
General Principals
The risk of collision exists if the bearing of the other vessel remains constant or nearly so.
Always keep a good lookout
Proceed at a safe speed according to conditions, visibility, traffic etc
Take early and obvious action when giving way
Vessels with right of way should hold a steady course and speed. If action becomes necessary, avoid turning to port
Vessels less than 20m in length should not impede vessels using a traffic separation scheme or vessels confined to a narrow channel
Power driven vessels approaching head-on: both turn to starboard
Power driven vessels crossing: the one with the other vessel on its starboard side gives way

All Vessels
Give way to:

• Vessels fishing
• Vessels not under command (unable to manoeuvre)
• Vessels restricted in their ability to manoeuvre
• Vessels constrained by their draught
• Any vessel they are overtaking
• Vessels coming downstream
• Vessels leaving locks and jetties

Vessels under Power
Give way to:

• Vessels under sail

Vessels under Sail
Give way to:
• Vessels sailing to leeward
• (If on port tack) vessels sailing on starboard tack

Sound signals
The following are some of the more common international sound signals
1 short blast = Altering course to starboard (going to the right)
2 short blasts = Altering course to port (going to the left)
3 short blasts = My engines are going astern (I'm trying to go backwards)
2 long blasts + 1short blast = I intend to overtake you on your starboard side
2 long blasts + 2 short blasts = I intend to overtake you on your port side
1 long + 1 short + 1 long + 1 short = I agree with your intention to overtake me
1 long blast = Warning at bridges and blind bends
5 or more blasts = Your intentions are unclear

One “short blast” means a blast of about one second’s duration
One “long blast” means a blast of from four to six seconds’ duration

Boating jargon
Back = stern
Front = bow
Left = port
Right = starboard

Manoeuvring (Powerboats)
Start the engine and keep it in neutral until you're ready to move off. Untie the bow and stern mooring ropes from the bank, and leave them safely stowed, coiled and ready for use. On rivers, untie the downstream rope first. Make sure your ropes can't trail in the water and get caught in the propeller. If you're using mooring stakes, don't forget to stow those and the hammer too.

Push the boat away from the bank so you can make a clean get away, with your propeller in deep water. In shallow water, push the stern of the boat out, and then reverse away until there's room to straighten up.

When the boat's straight, go into forward gear and accelerate gently to cruising speed.

On all waterways, you drive on the right(port to port rule). In practice, on most canals and rivers, you'll keep to the centre of the channel - it's shallow near the edges - unless there's another boat coming towards you. You should slow down when passing anglers or moored boats to avoid rocking them about.
Boats come in different sizes, shapes and materials - and they all behave differently. Before you set off, spend some time getting to know your boat.

If your boat has a weed hatch make sure your propeller is clear of debris, but take care. Turn the engine off and take the key out of the ignition. Wear gloves if you can. Watch out for weed cutters in front of the propeller.
Steering a boat with a wheel is like steering a car, but it's more difficult to judge where your wheel should be for going straight ahead. Get to know the feel of the wheel and the rudder position before you set off.

Using a tiller to steer is simple - as long as you remember that pushing to the right will make the boat head left and vice versa.

Your boat pivots from a point about halfway along its length. That means you need to watch out for the bow and the stern. If you line up the bow only and then try to turn into a narrow gap - a bridge or lock, for example - you risk hitting the side with the stern of your boat. You can't steer unless your boat is in gear. Remember - no gear, no steer. 

Because boats don't have brakes, you need to give yourself plenty of time to stop - especially when travelling downstream. Ease off the throttle, move into neutral and then use short bursts in reverse gear to slow down and come to a final halt. Remember that it's more difficult to steer when you're in reverse gear

Every skipper goes aground at some point - it's not necessarily a disaster.
Don't try to force your way over the obstacle or you'll find yourself even more stuck. Instead, use reverse gear to back away into deeper water.

If you're firmly stuck - or if the water's too shallow for the propeller - use your crew's weight to tilt the boat by moving them to the side of the boat that's still floating. Now use the pole to push off. Remember, though, you need to push against a solid object or the bed of the waterway - if you put the pole straight down and try to use it as a lever, it'll either break or you'll fall in. And keep the top of the pole away from your face and body, in case it slips suddenly. 

  Special safety tips
Always be aware of what’s happening around you - on the boat, in the water and on the banks
Don’t let passengers stand or sit in the way of the tiller
Think ahead and make sure you’re lined up for bridge and lock entrances well in advance
Slow down almost to a stop and carry out all your manoeuvres as slowly as possible.

Stop short of where you want to moor with your boat straight and in deep water. Move forward very slowly, pointing the bow of the boat towards the bank, then use reverse to stop the boat just before the bow hits the bank. Put the engine into neutral.

On rivers, you should always moor with the bow of your boat facing upstream or into a very strong wind. So, if you're heading downstream, you'll need to pass the mooring and turn your boat around. Allow for the fact that the water level may rise or fall by as much as 3ft (1m). If you are in the tidal section of the Lower Bann, do not bank moor overnight.

Your crew should step ashore - not jump. They can either carry the ropes with them - making sure there's plenty of slack and that one end is fixed to the boat - or you can pass them the ropes once they're on land.
To keep your boat secure, you need to tie it to the bank with a rope from both the bow and the stern. On rivers, you should fix your upstream rope first.

Many mooring sites have bollards or rings to tie up to - choose ones a short distance beyond the bow and the stern of your boat. Run your ropes at about 45º from your boat, loop them back onto the boat and tie securely, but not too tightly.
To stop your boat moving backwards and forwards in flowing water, you can use 'springs' -  

If there aren't any bollards or rings, use your mooring stakes, but check the stability of the bank and watch out for signs of underground pipes or cables before you start hammering. Knock them in to about half their length and make sure they're firm. Mark them with a piece of light-coloured cloth or a white carrier bag so that walkers can see them clearly, and don't tie your ropes across the towpath.

Leave a little slack in your ropes - that's especially important on the tidal estuary or the rivers. If the ropes are too tight and the water level drops, your boat could be left hanging from the bank.

Remember that your anchor should be used if you need added security

Safety Tips
Make sure you know how to use your ropes properly. Keep them coiled, free of knots - and don’t drop them in the water.

Two useful knots
                                                                                                       Locking hitch 

Quick release clove hitch

Can I tie up here?
Ask the person in charge or use signposted visitor moorings wherever possible. Double-check that you’re not a hazard to other boats or to people using the waterway. Leave room for other boats to tie up too.
Don’t tie up:
• In lock entrances
• In locks overnight as the water can leak out or in of the chamber
• Near bridges
• Near weirs
• Near sharp bends
• By blind spots
• Near designated wildlife sanctuaries
• At junctions
• To the bank on the tidal estuary - you might find yourself hanging from the ropes when the tide goes out!
• In stretches marked for angling


There's no mystery to using locks - just a series of step-by-step tasks. Know the procedure, take your time and you'll be on your way with no problem.

A lock is simply a chamber with gates at either end. By emptying or filling that chamber with water, your boat can move up or down onto a new section of the river.

With the lock gates closed, the lockkeeper opens the sluices to let the water in or out. When the water level under your boat is the same as the level you're moving to, you simply move in or out of the lock.

All locks are operated by lock-keepers. Always obey lockkeeper’s instructions.
Engines should always be switched off in locks after securing vessel. 

Special safety tips
• Take your time - and keep an eye out for problems
• Always have a competent person on board while the boat's in the lock
• Keep your boat well away from the gates and sills
• Boats tend to bang about when water flows in and out of a lock - stay alert
• Watch out for slippery surfaces when you're pushing the gates open
• Work out some clear signals so that the crew and skipper can communicate quickly - a sign that means "close all the sluices", for example
Sharing a lock - saving water

Always share a lock if you can. And, if the lock's set against you, check for boats coming from the other direction. The lock will be ready for them to use and it'll save unnecessary emptying and filling.

It's usually possible to get two or three boats in a lock, but check that you all have enough room to avoid the sill and gates. The heavier boat should always go in first, so that the water flow doesn't pull it into the lighter boats.

Special safety tips
• Take your time - and keep an eye out for problems
• Always have a competent person on board while the boat's in the lock
• Keep your boat well away from the gates and sills
• Boats tend to bang about when water flows in and out of a lock - stay alert
• Watch out for slippery surfaces when you're pushing the gates open
• Work out some clear signals so that the crew and skipper can communicate quickly - a sign that means "close all the sluices", for example
Sharing a lock - saving water

Always share a lock if you can. And, if the lock's set against you, check for boats coming from the other direction. The lock will be ready for them to use and it'll save unnecessary emptying and filling.

Floating freely?

As the water level rises or falls, keep a continual check on your boat.

• Is your rudder caught on the sill?
Ask the lockkeeper to close the bottom gate paddles to stop the water falling further. Slowly open the top gate paddles to refill the lock. Check for damage
• Is the bow of your boat caught on the top gate?
Ask the lockkeeper to close the top gate paddles to stop the lock filling and open the bottom gate paddles to allow the water level to fall.
• Is the side of your boat caught against the lock wall?
Ask the lockkeeper to refill the lock and check for damage.
• Are your ropes snarled or too tight to let your boat move down freely?
Slacken them off if you can. If not, ask the lockkeeper to refill the lock.
• If you're sharing the lock with another boat, is there a safe distance between you?
Use ropes looped round the bollards to keep you in position

If someone falls into the lock, act quickly. If there's no lock-keeper to take charge:
• Throw a lifeline or lifebuoy
• Stop all engines and keep the boat still
• Summon assistance
Manned locks
All locks on the Lower Bann are manned locks, operated by a lock-keeper. Always follow the lock-keeper's instructions.
On entering the chamber, switch your engine off in the lock and use ropes to control your boat.
Use your fenders to stop your boat getting caught on the safety chains that run alongside the lock. 

  Accidents and Injuries

Tranquil waterways, beautiful scenery, fresh air. Boating on our Lough and Rivers is a real pleasure - and, most of the time, there's no safer way to travel.
Accidents and injuries are rare, but every year a few people do get hurt - usually through inexperience or not paying attention. By looking at the accidents people have had on boats over the past few years, it is obvious that they fit into a relatively small number of categories.
Tips to avoid common accidents
Don't let small children move around the boat unsupervised. Always know where they are. Make sure they always wear a lifejacket even when not on the boat but near the water (on jetties and slipways etc.).
Wherever you are - home, work or on a waterway - the most common accidents are slips, trips and falls. But when you fall off a boat or from the waterside, those accidents can be more serious.

Apart from the risk of drowning, you could be dragged or fall into a moving propeller. You could hit your head, or be crushed between your boat and another object. There's also a slight risk of infection from the water itself.

Boats and watersides are littered with bollards, rings, ropes and holes. Surfaces can be uneven or slippery, particularly in wet weather or early morning dew. So you need to keep your eyes open - and slow down.

Many falls happen during mooring - simply because people aren't sure of the procedure.
What causes falls?
• Trips over ropes, mooring stakes and so on - especially when left untidy
• Walking on narrow decks on boats that tend to rock
• Jumping off or stepping off in a dangerous place
• Slipping on a wet deck
• Unsuitable footwear
• Moving about the boat or waterside at night
• Too much to drink
Safety essentials
• Watch out for collisions - and if you are going to bump, warn your crew and passengers
• Always use the grab rail
• Keep your boat tidy
• Don't jump off the boat when mooring
• Wear non-slip deck-shoes 
 Take extra care on jetties and towpaths at night and always use a torch
Don't leave the helm when the engine's in gear. If someone falls into the water, they could be injured by a moving propeller. And don't leave the keys in the ignition unattended.  

  Should I wear a lifejacket?

Children and adults (swimmers and non-swimmers) should always wear lifejackets or a buoyancy aid whether they're onboard, near the water or on jetties.
Always wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid. There have been no fatalities in living memory on the River Bann and Lough Neagh system where victims have been wearing a lifejacket.

safteyfor all1.jpg Safety for All Hands
Collisions - with other boats, banks, bridges or other structures - are another common cause of injury. The impact can lead to falls, both onto the deck and into the water. And for people working in the galley, there's a risk of scalds or burns.
What causes collisions?
• Lack of boat-handling skill or experience
• Taking your eyes off the waterway
• Cruising too fast
If your boat collides with something else, you don't want to be in the way. Don't put yourself between the boat and a bank or bridge, or you could end up with crushed fingers or legs - or even more serious body injuries.  

Should I wear a lifejacket?

Children and adults (swimmers and non-swimmers) should always wear lifejackets or a buoyancy aid whether they're onboard, near the water or on jetties.
Always wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid. There have been no fatalities in living memory on the River Bann and Lough Neagh system where victims have been wearing a lifejacket.  

Safety for All Hands

Collisions - with other boats, banks, bridges or other structures - are another common cause of injury. The impact can lead to falls, both onto the deck and into the water. And for people working in the galley, there's a risk of scalds or burns.
What causes collisions?
• Lack of boat-handling skill or experience
• Taking your eyes off the waterway
• Cruising too fast
If your boat collides with something else, you don't want to be in the way. Don't put yourself between the boat and a bank or bridge, or you could end up with crushed fingers or legs - or even more serious body injuries.
Safety essentials
• Make sure you know the size of your boat and the dimensions of the waterway you're cruising on
• Check headroom for bridges. Remember bridge shapes vary and water levels rise
• Watch out for cross-winds
• Be ready for strong flows at locks, weirs and places where water is taken in or out of the waterway
• Sound your horn as you approach blind bridges, bends and junctions
• Look out for canoes and dinghies
• Watch out for floating tree trunks and other debris
• Learn the Rules of the Road
What causes accidents?
• Using your hands or feet to stop a collision or fend off
• Not appreciating the momentum or the size of your boat
Safety essentials
• Keep your body out of the way
• Keep within the boat - that means not having your legs dangling over the side, your hands over the edge or your head out of the side hatch
• Keep off the roof when underway
• Don't fend off with your arms, legs or a boat pole — let the fender take the impact 

Operating injuries
Boating can involve a lot of physical exercise. Some of the work is heavy and you'll also be using unfamiliar techniques and tools. Together, the two things can add up to strained backs and muscles, cuts or worse.
What causes operating injuries?
• Overstretching yourself
• Using tools or equipment incorrectly
• Not paying attention to the job in hand
Safety essentials
• Take things easy. Don't strain. Share the work
• Let the fittest or preferably the lockkeeper operate locks and bridges
• Make sure you know how to use equipment properly
• Watch out for worn paddle gear
• Only use a boat-hook or pole when the boat's still
• Keep fingers clear of ropes - sudden tension in the rope can trap fingers
• Don't wrap ropes around any part of your body
Don't use ropes to stop the boat - use the engine 
Fire on Board
Boat fires and explosions are extremely rare - probably because most people take the same sensible precautions as they do at home. But there are a couple of extra risks to be aware of.

The bottled gas used for cookers, fridges and heaters is heavier than air and, if there's a leak, it'll lie in the bottom of the boat. There, it only takes a spark to ignite.

Petrol vapour is also heavier than air. If you smell petrol strongly, follow the gas leak drill - see I can smell gas.

And lastly, you need to watch out for fumes from cooking and heating equipment or the engine building up in the boat. Carbon monoxide is extremely poisonous. Symptoms include headaches, tiredness, sickness and dizziness, and are often mistaken for flu.

What causes accidents?
• Dangerous equipment
• Poor ventilation
• Not knowing how to refuel safely 

Safety essentials
• Boat-owners should get their equipment serviced and checked regularly
• Switch off appliances when you're not using them
• Keep ventilators open and free of obstructions
• Learn how to refuel safely
• Always use the bilge blower before you start the engine on a petrol-engined boat
• If you're leaving a solid fuel burner alight overnight, open a window to give you extra ventilation
• Make sure you know where your fire extinguisher is - and how to use it
Safe re-fuelling of petrol-engined boats
• Stop the engine
• Put out all naked flames including pilot lights
• Evacuate the boat
• Petrol vapour is highly flammable. It's also heavy, particularly in warm weather. Think about where it might end up. Protect cabins and cockpits by closing doors and raising awnings
• Avoid petrol spillage
• Never decant petrol on board, in a lock or next to another boat
• Re-fuel outboard tanks ashore, well away from the boat
I can smell gas!

Turn off the gas isolation valve and open windows, hatches or doors to ventilate the area as much as possible. Turn the engine off, and put out naked flames, cookers, pilot lights and cigarettes. Evacuate the boat if possible.

Don't switch anything electrical on or off, including lights and the bilge pump, until you're sure the gas has dispersed. Remember gas is heavier that air and will gather in the bilge.
Find the problem and get it put right before you turn the gas on again.

Act quickly - fire spreads rapidly! Alert everyone on board to move to a safe location and evacuate if possible. Call the Coastguard and Fire Service if you can.

A fire blanket is designed for use on cooker fires and the fire extinguishers for other fires. Use these to help you escape or to fight a fire if you feel competent. Make sure the equipment is maintained in good condition and ready for use at all times.

If the fires in the engine space don't open the main access - the air will only feed the fire. Some boats have a fixed fire extinguisher in the engine space, which is activated automatically or with a manual control outside the compartment. Failing this, you might be able to discharge a fire extinguisher through a small opening in the engine access.

If someone's clothes are alight, quickly lie them face down so that the flames rise away from their face. Smother the flames with a blanket or wet jacket, laid away from their face 

Accidents in Locks
Though boating accidents are few and far between, many of them happen in locks.

Moving through a lock is perhaps the trickiest part of boating. There's a lot to think about at once and a whole series of tasks to carry out.

Practically all the safety tips we've come across so far apply here. But you also need to be extra alert. If your boat gets caught up, it could come crashing down into the lock.

There's more guidance on how to use locks in 'locks'.
What causes accidents in locks?
• Not paying attention
• Rushing the procedures



Safety essentials
• Make sure the boat's level and free. It should be away from the sill, not caught on a gate or projection and the ropes should be able to run freely
• Use the paddles (sluices) gradually
• Check that your crew have got their part of the task right
• Watch out for 'helpful' bystanders - their mistakes could land you in trouble
• Always have a helmsman on the boat in locks
Most canals are calm and smooth-flowing, but rivers can catch you out with strong streams or currents. Handling a boat in fast-flowing water takes special skill and good judgement. What's more, the usual risks are magnified - a current makes collisions more likely, for example, and can make it harder to recover a person overboard.  

Toome Lock

What causes accidents?
• Inexperience
• Taking on too much of a challenge
Safety essentials
• Don't cruise in strong stream conditions - tie up securely, watch for changes in water level and adjust your mooring ropes as necessary
• Make sure your boat has enough power to cope with the strength of the stream or tide
• Have a good anchor and chain ready for use
• Keep clear of weirs
• Boating with an experienced skipper is the best way to gain experience
• Look out for large commercial boats ( sand barges, fishing boats, etc) and prepare to give way
Man Overboard
On the rivers
Before you do anything else, take a breath and think. Don't panic, don't jump in - and don't let others jump in; the water is very cold even in summer. Keep sight of the person in the water at all times.

Turn your engine off. Don't reverse the boat - the person in the water could be dragged into the propeller.

Throw a line or a lifebelt and tell them to try to stand up - if it's shallow they might be able to walk out.
Steer the boat slowly to the bank and get one of your crew to help the person to shore.
On Lough Neagh
Throw a lifebelt or lifebuoy and steer your boat carefully to approach the person in the water. Keep a constant watch to ensure your propeller is well away from them.
Pull them to the side of the boat and help them aboard with a ladder, rope or pole.
Be prepared
Make sure everyone on the boat knows the drill - and knows where to find the lifeline or lifebelt. In case it's the skipper who falls overboard, the crew should also know how to stop the propeller and steer the boat.
Practise the drill. It's better to learn it before an accident happens.
Never swim in waterways. You could:
• Get tangled in weeds
• Be hit by a passing boat
• Get drawn into a sluice or weir
Cold, fast-flowing water is dangerous.
Don't take the risk!
Waterborne Diseases
Waterborne diseases, including Weil's disease (leptospirosis), are extremely rare, but it's sensible to take a few precautions.
If you've got any cuts or scratches, keep them covered. If you fall in, take a shower and treat cuts with antiseptic and a sterile dressing. Wash wet clothing before you wear it again.
If you develop flu-like symptoms within two weeks, see your doctor and mention that you fell in the water. Not all doctors will know to look for signs of Weil's disease, so do suggest it as a possibility 

Markers Buoys and Signs

If there's a channel you should stick to it - it'll usually be marked by a red and white semicircular mark on a pole. Always pass these markers on the white side as this is the safe side. However the channel in the Lower Bann tidal estuary is marked by red and green IALA (International Association of Lighthouse Authorities) Maritime Bouyage System-Region A (red to port) marks. This system uses red and green marks called lateral marks, cardinal marks, isolated danger marks and special marks (see drawings).

If you are heading downstream (towards the sea) in the tidal section of the Lower Bann, keep the red markers to your right (starboard) and the green ones to your left (port). If you are going upstream (towards Lough Neagh) the red markers should be on your left (port) and the green markers on your right (starboard). This is reversed at the entrance to Toome Canal. Remember Bouyage is always taken as inwards (with the flood tide) with red to port (left) and green to starboard (right) when travelling inwards to a harbour, river or canal entrance.

A modified IALA Cardinal and Lateral Bouyage system combined with the red and a white semicircular marker sign is used on Lough Neagh. The Lough Neagh marks are numbered 1-47 starting at Toome Canal Entrance and finishing at Bamford Bank. They are numbered in a clockwise direction around the Lough. 

  Starboard Lateral Mark    East Cardinal Mark

Typical Lough Neagh Combined Marks

Cardinal Marks
 Indicate the location of the safest or deepest water by reference to the cardinal points of the compass.
 Are identified by their top shapes
 Have four different names, North, South, East, and West.
 They work well as long as boaters realise they must keep to the safe water side of the mark as indicated by it’s name (i.e. keep to the north of a north cardinal mark; keep to the east of an east cardinal mark, etc.).  

To understand their meaning a boater must be aware of his geographical position and therefore needs a compass to indicate where the safe water lies.

North Cardinal Mark
• Has two triangles pointing up. Pass to the North of this mark.
South Cardinal Mark
• Has two triangles pointing down. Pass to the South of this mark.
East Cardinal Mark
• Has two triangles pointing away from each other. Pass to the East of this mark.
West Cardinal Mark
• Has two triangles pointing towards each other. Pass to the West of this mark 

Special Mark
• Is used to indicate a special area or feature. Local examples are the edge of the slipway at Portglenone Marina and the edge of the slipway at Antrim (Sixmilewater).
Isolated Danger Mark
• These are on an isolated danger of limited extent that has navigable water all around it. Isolated Danger Marks are not always positioned centrally over a danger and it is therefore advisable not to pass to close to them.
Lateral Marks
• These are used to indicate the port (left) and the starboard (right) sides of the channels when traveling in the Direction of Bouyage.
• Port hand marks are colored red, are cylindrical, square, oblong or round when floating. ( occasionally a round red buoy is used)
• Starboard hand marks are green (exceptionally blue is used) and are conical or triangular. ( occasionally a round green buoy is used)  

Red and White Marker Sign

• The red and white marker sign is one of the more simple markers and is used on the Lower Bann and Lough Neagh. On Lough Neagh it is used in conjunction with the Cardinal and Lateral marks. Red indicates shallow or danger and white indicates safe water.  

Straying out of the channel can be very dangerous - especially if you find yourself near a weir. Watch out for the warning signs. 

Make sure the other skipper knows what you're intending to do well before you start to manoeuvre. They need time to slow down and to tell you on which side to overtake - usually the left. If you're the one overtaking, it's your responsibility to stay clear of the other boat until passed and clear. Go as slowly as possible to avoid the two boats being drawn together. Giving way If you're approaching a bridge or narrow section, slow down. If a boat coming in the opposite direction is closer to the bridge, wave them through and keep right until they're well clear.
On rivers, the boat coming downstream has right of way. Passing dredgers or works Pass on the side that's showing the green or white light or shape - not the side showing red. On canals, though, you may see both sides marked with red during the day - follow the instructions given by the works crew.
Navigation lights 
It's best not to cruise in the dark and certainly not without proper training. If you do, you must get information from the navigation authority in charge of your waterway. The rules governing navigation lights are quite complex and the following is a guide to the more usual ones As a guide, at night and in poor visibility, boats usually show: White lights - front and back
Green light – starboard (right) side
Red light – port (left) side As a result, if you see:
A vessel showing a green side light indicates the other vessel is crossing from left to right and is the give way vessel.
A vessel showing a red side light indicates the other vessel is crossing from right to left and is the stand on vessel.
A vessel showing a red and green light indicates that it is coming towards you.
·       The above applies to a vessel under sail and without using mechanical power.  If the other vessel is using mechanical power with or without sails, then it is considered to be a power driven vessel, and you should see an additional white light higher than their side lights. A vessel showing a white light only, indicates one of the following ·       A vessel at anchor. ·       A vessel going away from you i.e. its stern light. ·       A sailing vessel less than 7 metres in length. ·       A vessel under oars. ·       A power driven vessel less than 7 metres in length and whose maximum speed does not exceed 7 knots Cruising at night can be dangerous and is not recommended on the system. The buoyage on the system, with the exception of the Lower Bann from Coleraine to the Barmouth and the entrance to the Battery Harbour and Ballyronan, are unlit. Tie up before it gets dark and avoid using locks at night.  Speed limits The maximum speed on narrow channels is 3 knots. But if you're making waves or your wash is hitting the bank, you're going too fast - slow down. On rivers and canals, check local information before you set out and watch for speed limit signs en route.

Don't forget that the river currents can increase and decrease the speed of your boat.

Keep your speed down when you're approaching bridges, locks, bends or junctions, and when passing moored boats or anglers. Caring for the environment Please help to keep the waterways pleasant places for everyone who uses them - and for the wildlife that depends on them. Shut gates behind you
Keep to footpaths
Don't light fires
Respect the wildlife
And take your litter away with you
Water discharge and oily bilges Don't pump oily water from your bilge into the waterway. Well-maintained engines shouldn't leak oil, but check the drip tray under the engine and gearbox regularly. Use biodegradable oils, if possible.

Avoid spilling petrol and diesel. If you do, mop it up - don't use detergents.

The toilets on your boat mustn't discharge sewage into the waterway. There are pump-out facilities for chemical or closed toilet systems at some of the marinas. Use the minimum amount of chemicals to avoid upsetting the sewage treatment system. If you have a closed toilet system, you may not need to use chemicals at all - so check your manual.

The wastewater outlet from your sink and shower is allowed to flow straight into the waterway. But to help keep the water as healthy as possible, put your cooking waste in the bin, use environmentally-friendly detergents and be economical with everything you put down the sink.


 Please don't throw any waste overboard - even apple cores take a long time to rot. Litter can kill wildlife, and it can cause problems for other boaters by getting tangled in their propellers. There are plenty of waste disposal points at marinas, moorings and along the waterway. 
When you go too fast, your waves can damage banks and sensitive plants.
If you see your wash hitting the bank, please slow down. Cut your speed and keep your distance when passing nesting water birds too
  The non-towpath side of the waterways are often especially rich in wildlife, so take especial care not to disturb plants or animals there. Don't moor on this side unless there are proper mooring facilities. Respecting other waterway users Waterways tend to be quiet, peaceful places. And they're for everyone to enjoy - boaters, walkers, anglers, cyclists and others. Roaring engines, unnecessary use of the horn, loud music and shouting - they can all be a real nuisance to other people and wildlife. Don't put your mooring stakes or ropes where people could trip over them. And if you're passing an angler, keep to the centre of the channel unless they ask otherwise. Reduce your wash, but keep a steady pace. Watch out for signs indicating fishing matches in the area. Always slow down when passing other boats.  

TrainingBoat-handling training courses: 

Royal Yachting Association, power boating and sailing certificates. One or two-day course.  The Practical Course Notes for these courses are available to buy.                         https://www.rya.org.uk/gbni/ryani  
Your local boat clubs may also be able to offer training as well.

V.H.F. RADIO    
  Although not essential a VHF radio is a very important piece of equipment on board a boat particularly in an emergency situation. It can also be used to communicate with other boats and to receive weather updates. In an emergency on Lough Neagh or the Rivers it is usually the quickest method for contacting the rescue services via Belfast Coastguard. Belfast Coastguard can be contacted on VHF Channel 16. Belfast coastguard can also be contacted via mobile phone by dialling 999 and asking for Coastguard. Mobile phone coverage is not as good on the system as VHF.   To call other boats use Channel 16 and move to a working channel as soon as contact is made.   It is a legal requirement to have a VHF radio licensed both for possession on board and for use but the Coastguard will not refuse a call from an unlicensed radio. For Radio Licensing contact  https://www.ofcom.org.uk/manage-your-licence/radiocommunication-licences

  The RYA runs one-day courses on VHF radio operations, which end in a simple written and practical test. Even if you are not the radio operator (who is required by law to pass the test) it's certainly worth your while taking the course.   Any VHF radios purchased since 2000 are fitted with Digital Selective Calling (DSC). This equipment is part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), which became fully operational on 1 February 1999. GMDSS is designed to provide an automatic means of transmitting and receiving distress alerts by using (DSC). DSC communication is much faster and has a greater probability of reception than the existing manually operated distress system. If you are in distress, a DSC Distress Alert should be sent before the MAYDAY procedure. DO NOT RELY SOLELY ON THE DSC ALERT. IT SHOULD BE IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWED BY THE "MAYDAY" PROCEDURE ON THE DISTRESS CHANNEL16 AS SHOWN IN THE "EMERGENCY RADIO PROCEDURES" .   IF YOU EVER HEAR THE WORD 'MAYDAY' ON A VHF RADIO, GRAB A PENCIL AND PAPER AND WRITE DOWN THE MESSAGE. IF YOU HEAR NO RESPONSE TO THE MAYDAY FROM THE COASTGUARD RESPOND AND IF POSSIBLE OFFER ASSISTANCE AND RELAY THE MESSAGE TO THE COASTGUARD.   


 (For use only when in grave and imminent danger and IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE is required) DSC VHF RADIO If the set is not connected to the GPS enter your lat/long. If there is time, select an emergency message. PUSH AND HOLD DOWN THE RED DISTRESS BUTTON FOR AT LEAST 5 SECS. This should send your identification and GPS position. The set will retune to Ch16. Send a Mayday as below Boats equipped with older type VHF can still use Channel 16 for distress calls as below for the foreseeable future.   1. Ensure transmitter is switched on and set to VHF Channel 16 full power. 2. Then say slowly and clearly: MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY THIS IS............................................... (vessel’s name or callsign 3 times) MAYDAY followed by vessel’s name or callsign MY POSITION IS    ……….        “Latitude and Longitude if known” (also try to give a range and bearing FROM a well-known point) NATURE OF DISTRESS........” what's wrong” AID REQUIRED…………usually "immediate assistance required” NUMBER OF PERSONS ON BOARD (including yourself) and ANY USEFUL INFORMATION (e.g. size and colour of vessel)........................................ OVER    means please reply.
Any message prefixed by one of the following pro-words concerns Safety. If you receive a message beginning with one of them pay particular attention and write it down. Always allow at least 3 minutes for the Coastguard to reply before responding. MAYDAY Means that a ship, aircraft, other vehicle or person/s is in grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance.   MAYDAY
Means that the calling station is passing on a message from a ship, aircraft, other vehicle or person/s in grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance.   PAN-PAN Means that the calling station has an urgent message concerning the safety of a ship, aircraft, other vehicle or person/s,or requires medical assistance     SECURITE Means that the calling station has a message concerning the safety of navigation or giving important meteorological warnings. The following pro-words will be transmitted if you disturb the transmissions during a distress situation SEELONCE MAYDAY Means that the controlling station, in a distress situation is telling you to begin and maintain radio silence. On receipt of this message you must cease transmissions.   SEELONCE DISTRESS Means that a ship station (that may be involved in a distress situation) is telling you to begin and maintain radio silence. On receipt of this message you must cease transmissions.     Always remember to use your VHF Radio in a responsible manner. Do not allow children and others to interfere or play with the equipment as uncontrolled transmissions can block other emergency calls and cause false alarms


  As with anywhere else weather forecasting plays a very important role in safe and enjoyable boating.  
Wind strength and direction are very important factors to consider when planning a cruise particularly on Lough Neagh which is a large open body of water.
Rain is an important factor on the rivers as heavy rainfall can cause the levels to rise and therefore reduce airdraft at bridges. There is also the more obvious problem of currents to be taken into account.
Take into account wind strength and direction when planning a cruise and vary your course to suit. You can always cancel your cruise but if you do get caught out in high winds try to keep to a lee shore.    
Examples:   Battery Harbour to Antrim wind North Westerly Force 4 - 5 Instead of taking the direct route follow the West Shore towards Toome Bay and Ballyronan, cross Toome Bay to South of Skady with the wind directly behind you. Follow the North Shore to Antrim Bay (watching for the Rabbit Point mark no 7).   Coney Island to Sandy Bay wind South Easterly Force 4- 5 Instead of taking the direct route follow the South Shore towards Ardmore Point, head for Tolan’s Flat then pass to east of the Skane Flat following the East Shore (watching for the Lady Bay mark no 14) towards Sandy Bay.   These routes might take a bit longer but would be a lot more comfortable for boat and crew than the direct route.     
Forecasts and Current Observations Belfast Coastguard  Belfast Coastguard broadcast weather forecasts and warnings every four hours on VHF with an initial announcement on channel 16. Broadcasts timed at 0305,0705,1105,1505,1905,2305 UTC.  BBC Radio   Radio 4 Shipping forecast

Current Conditions Belfast International Airport  broadcast a repetitive current observation which can be listened to only on an air band radio on 128.200 MHz (AM).This broadcast is timed in UTC and is meant for approaching aircraft but is useful for boaters on Lough Neagh.   

Force Wind Speed (Knots) Description State of Sea
0 0-1 Calm Like a Mirror
1 1-3 Light Air Ripples like scales are formed
2 4-6 Light Breeze Small wavelets, still short but more pronounced , not breaking
3 7-10 Gentle Breeze Large wavelets, crests begin to break; a few white horses
4 11-16 Moderate Breeze Small waves growing longer; fairly frequent white horses
5 17-21 Fresh Breeze Moderate waves taking more pronounced form;; many white horses, perhaps some spray
6 22-27 Strong Breeze Large Waves foaming; white foam crests more extensive; probably some spray
7 28-33 Near Gale Sea heaps up; white foam from breaking waves begin to blow into streaks
8 34-40 Gale Moderately high waves of greater length; edge of crests break into spindrift; foam blown into well marked streaks
9 41-47 Severe Gale High waves with tumbling crests; dense streaks of foam; spray may affect visibility
10 48-55 Storm Very high waves with long overhanging crests; Dense streams of foam make surface of sea white. Heavy tumbling seas; visibility affected
11 56-63 Violent Storm Exceptionally high sea waves, Sea completely covered with long white patches of foam, edges of wave crests blown into froth, visibility effected
12 64 > Hurricane Air filled with foam and spray; sea completely white with driving spray; Visibility very seriously affected 

Depending on the size and type of your vessel it is not advisable to leave harbour on Lough Neagh when the wind is forecast force 4 upwards. If in doubt don’t go out or seek advice from the harbour master or marina attendant.

Global Positioning System    
This item is to give you some insight into Global Positioning System (GPS) and perhaps give you a better understanding on how to get the best from your GPS. GPS is very easy to use and you needn't get too bothered as to how the system works, but a little understanding is helpful to get the best from your GPS.   Global Positioning System has become a common piece of equipment found onboard quite a few vessels today and provides additional security in knowing exactly where you are in an emergency, even in bad visibility. In addition it should make your boating more enjoyable by showing your vessel's speed, course, distance travelled, course to take to a known waypoint, distance to go, estimated time of arrival, distance off course, and much more all for around £100 plus   So how does it work?  The first operational and most commonly used ‘Satellite Navigation System’ is the American GPS ‘Navstar’ system. This basically consists of 24 satellites that circle the earth in 12 hour orbits and send down timed signals to the GPS receivers. By knowing the orbital parameters of each satellite, a GPS receiver can determine extremely accurately the distance from the satellite. When at least four satellites are received by the GPS, a three dimensional fix is obtained and this is shown on the GPS display in latitude and longitude, or an OS grid reference. The accuracy of this fix is within 22.5 metres (approximately) 95% of the time, and will be displayed referenced to a chart datum, usually WGS84.   Positions? All charts and maps are drawn from known reference points (Geodetic Datum's) and different datum’s were chosen for different countries and/or parts of the world to suit each location. This worked well until GPS came along which needed one geodetic datum to cover the entire earth. The GPS satellite system works on World Geodetic System WGS84. This may not correspond to the chart or map which you are using. For example the Admiralty chart of Lough Neagh (issue 29/04/1999) has a note as follows: - 'Satellite-Derived Positions. Positions obtained from satellite navigation systems are refereed to WGS84 Datum; latitudes can be used directly, but longitudes should be moved 0.06 minutes eastwards to agree with this chart.'  E.g. Your GPS shows you are in position 54º 42'. 750 N - 006º 14'. 450W. You would plot that position on the chart with the longitude amended to 006º 14'. 390 W, which equates to a difference of 111metres east. You can however set your GPS to give the position based on the datum of the chart you are working on. However for maritime navigation it is considered best & safest practice to keep your GPS set on WGS84 and make the appropriate corrections manually when using charts. Therefore all Latitude & Longitude positions given in the RBLNA  Pilot are based on chart datum WGS84 and you should have your GPS set-up for this datum giving out your position in hh,mm,sss. As there are no current charts for the rivers on the system, Irish Grid Positions have been given in addition to Lat. & Long. positions. These Grid positions are based on Chart datum ‘Ireland 1965’. If you want to plot them directly onto an Ordnance Survey map without making adjustments, you will have to alter the set-up of your GPS to suit the ‘Ireland 1965’ datum, and change the position setting to display as Irish Grid reference. WARNING:- This is the danger of changing datum’s on a GPS. If you do make such changes, then make sure you are using the correct datum for each chart or map you are navigating with.  

What is a Waypoint? A waypoint is a point selected on a chart and entered into the GPS, a bit like an imaginary signpost in the water. It can be used for example to give a position of a buoy to the GPS, to show where isolated danger is, to mark safe position to clear a headland, etc. It can be inputted into the GPS by either entering in the Lat. (Latitude) & Long. (Longitude) position taken from the chart or if at a location, simply pressing the mark button on the GPS will input that waypoint. After creating a waypoint within the GPS, it is important to cross check this again between the chart and GPS. Also confirm the waypoint position by cross checking it to other existing GPS waypoints for correct bearing and distances. In addition to creating waypoints, you can also set up routes to include various waypoints; if for example sailing from Toome waypoint to Six Mile Water waypoint, you would need various waypoints to clear the headlands.
Warning: Taking positions from waypoint lists such as those shown in this Pilot, must be plotted on the chart to confirm their positions, and accuracy before inputting. Check the intended route between waypoints for navigation safety. A double check when inputting could help prevent grounding or worse in poor visibility. An additional warning about sailing to selected waypoints from a Pilot in restricted visibility is that other vessels might be heading for the same waypoint. It is sometimes better to create your own waypoint a safe distance off.

How do I plot my position in heavy seas? Using a parallel ruler in a small vessel is difficult enough in fine weather, and next to impossible in rough conditions. The simplest method is to input the centre of each of the compass roses on the chart as waypoints. Then simply ask the GPS to give you a position and bearing to the nearest rose waypoint. With distances in miles marked on the edge of a piece of paper or plastic film, lay this from the centre of the rose along the given bearing line on the rose, and at the given distance, that’s your position.

Can Satellite navigation get any better? Good as it is now, Satellite Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS) is already up and running in the US (WAAS), and will shortly be available in Europe (EGNOS). This will improve accuracy to better than 3 metres. If you are looking to purchase a GPS and you want this facility available, then look for WAAS or EGNOS or MASA compatibility. In addition the Europeans are developing their own Satellite Navigation System similar to the US Navstar, which should give even better coverage over Europe than the Navstar system. This however will not become available until around 2008.

What sorts of GPS are there? GPS receivers come in all shapes and sizes but most now will have 12 channel receivers which can track up to 12 satellites at any one time and will give a faster fix than the older 8 channel receivers. In general the larger the display the more expensive the GPS. A hand held receiver with its own integral antenna should work perfectly well even below deck on a fibreglass boat, although best reception will be obtained when the antenna has an uninterrupted view of the sky. On a steel vessel if using the GPS below, then an external antenna will be required. Larger GPS sets will require a permanent 12 volt supply, and going larger and more costly again, come the combined GPS / Chart Plotters and Radar.

Do I need a GPS? It is an additional piece of equipment that is very well worth having in providing increased safety and more enjoyable and knowledgeable boating. Indeed if you have or are purchasing a fixed DSC VHF radio, then it is desirable to have a GPS input to the radio. The danger of GPS is that because they are so good, some skippers rely totally on them for navigation and position fixing. Like all other electronic items they can fail, or indeed show incorrect information (garbage in garbage out). "A prudent mariner never relies on a single source of information". Captain James Cook 1728 - 1779. His statement is still as relevant today as it was then. Make sure you know how to navigate your vessel safely. Join a night class, or an organisation that teaches navigation to make boating both enjoyable and safer.