Two things you can count on during this July 4 weekend, especially if the weather is good. First, your local waterway will be packed. Second, it will be packed with a higher-than-usual number of less-than-cautious-and-skilled and possibly "over-served" vessel operators. That doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy your time on the water in your performance boat during this Independence Day weekend, it just means you have to be extra careful and aware while you do.

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Expect the waterways to be extra busy with vessels of all kinds and take extra care behind the wheel this weekend. Photo courtesy/copyright Jay Nichols/Naples Image

"You really need to use your peripheral vision whenever you're operating a powerboat, but it's especially important on weekends like this one when vessels are likely to be randomly shooting across your path—without warning—from all directions," says Tres Martin, the founder of the Performance Boat School that bears his name. "My approach to boating on holiday weekends is to assume there will be a lot of operators out there who don't know the rules of the waterway."

Martin advises paying particular attention to other vessels when you are overtaking them, as well as passing them head on.

"You have to be really careful when you're coming up behind another vessel because the operator may want to change direction without warning right in front of you," he says. "And when you have an oncoming vessel, you want to take extra care to 'show' your port side so the operator in that boat will understand you intend to pass them to port. These are operating basics you need to be aware every day, but they become even more crucial on holiday weekends when the waterways are crowded.

"And you want to stay far, far away from vessels that you think, for whatever reason, might be uninsured," he adds. "If something happens, those are the last people you want to be involved with."

Last, Martin suggests conservative operation throughout this holiday weekend.

"This is not the weekend to hang it out," he says. "On a weekend like this one, you're not going to want to try to get a full-on run out of your boat. Wait for another time when the water is less crowded for that."

Editor's note: Tres Martin's Safety Corner appears regularly on speedonthewater.com.

Related stories: Tres Martin's Safety Corner