Identifying Local Hazards

Boaters should not get complacent about local waterways and their hazards because they constantly change. Before each trip, they must become familiar with any existing or new hazards that may interfere with their boat’s operation.

Review the local nautical charts for obstacles such as overhead barriers, cables, rapids, tides, currents, and other hazards in the area of travel. Make sure you stay away from any swimming areas as well. Swimmers can get hurt even in kayaks and canoes.

Nautical Charts

nautical chart

It is common for boaters to use electronic devices for navigation, including GPS receivers, cellphones, and mobile applications that include chart overlays. Despite the rise of technology, nautical charts are still an important safety tool for boaters. A nautical chart illustrates the coastline’s characteristics and shape, the water’s depth, and the location of all aids navigation. Since all waterways, including lakes, rivers, and oceans, are constantly changing, nautical charts are updated continuously. Boaters rely on them for safety because of their accuracy.

For the safety of boaters, the National Ocean Service (NOS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration produces a variety of nautical charts that are both created and maintained. Among their offerings are nautical charts in a variety of formats and scales. NOS nautical charts are available directly from the NOS Distribution Branch or through any authorized agent. There are more than 1,700 NOS agents around the country. 

Boaters may contact the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office at 1-(888) 990-6622 or visit the website at for a list of local agents.
As major storms and waves can alter the coastline, boaters should obtain the most current chart details. The US Coast Guard publishes updated chart information weekly in the “Local Notice to Mariners,” which can be accessed online at



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