Georgia Boater Education Course


CHAPTER 3: Trip Planning and Preparation


It’s important to learn about local hazards before going boating in any new or unfamiliar waters. You can do this by obtaining local marine charts and/or checking with local boaters and marinas.

Local boaters and marinas typically have a wealth of knowledge about boating in their area and are usually more than happy to share it.

You should also find out if there are local rules such as horsepower restrictions, hours of operation, or access to locking operations that could impact your trip.

Now let’s review some of the hazards that you’ll want to be aware of when boating. 


Whitewater areas

Whitewaterfrothing white-tipped water caused by the presence of turbulence, whitecaps, rapids, etc. areas can very easily drag a boat or person downstreamtowards the direction in which the current is flowing.. Rocks, debris, as well as a strong, rushing current, are some of the dangers of whitewater.

Shoaling areas

Shoaling areas (marked and unmarked) become shallow gradually and are often difficult to spot without local charts.

Hazardous inlets

Hazardous inlets can produce abnormal currenthorizontal movement of water; cause by the normal flow of a river or by the rise and fall of the tide.s or changes in water levels.

Abnormal tides or currents

Abnormal tidethe rise and fall of waters caused by the gravitational forces of the moon and sun.s or currents can affect your ability to properly navigate or steer your vessel.

Low-head dams

Low-head damsa type of dam which can be a threat to an unwary boater, swimmer, or wader due to the dangerous hydraulic it creates. pose a hazard both below and above the dam. Small vessels, objects and people can get trapped in the hydraulicthe result of water going over a dam creating a back current or undertow that can pull a boat or a person into the turbulence and capsize. 'hole' at the base of these dams, creating a dangerous situation. Always be on the lookout for warning signs or buoys indicating low-head dams.

Note: Low-head dams are especially hazardous to paddle craft. If you are paddling near a low-head dam, always try to avoid it, or portageThe act of carrying a boat or vessel overland between two waterways or around an obstacle to navigation. your boat and its cargo overland around the dam. Getting trapped in a low-head dam can be fatal. Keep a sharp lookout and avoid them!

Lowhead Dam


Powerlines pose a particular hazard for sailing vessels, or any vessel with a mast. Make sure that your vessel has enough clearance to safely pass beneath any powerlines, and if you are unsure, don't take the risk.

Watch out for power lines

Low seasonal waters

Low seasonal waters do not appear on local charts, which show only the average water level. You'll want to keep in mind that waters are generally higher in the spring and lower in the summer. Make adjustments for low seasonal waters, as they make it more likely for your boat to run aground.


Pay extra attention to obstructions such as bridges, channel openings and commercial fishing nets. When you are close to these types of obstructions, proceed with caution.