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Boating Rules Tightened Over Terror

The Coast Guard wants boaters to know that safe boating this summer means more than a life jacket and distress horn - it means staying away from warships and potential terror targets, or they could get blown out of the water.

The Coast Guard has drawn up new rules establishing protection zones around Navy ships and power plants as a precaution against terrorism.

The new restrictions say recreational boaters must slow to minimum speed at 500 yards away from a ship, and stay at least 100 yards away unless they are granted special permission.

"Before you get too close, we'll try to raise you on the radio," said Jim Karr a senior U.S. Coast Guard officer.

If need be, the Coast Guard and Navy are authorized to use lethal force against a boat that gets too close. Before Sept. 11, that was unimaginable. Now the Coast Guard says it is not.

But crew on board ships have just seconds to make that call.

"A vessel traveling 35 miles per hour -- in 24 seconds he will be in the 100 yard zone. And six seconds later the commanding officer of that naval warship has to decide whether or not to use deadly force," said Karr.

A New Era

The rules went into place after Sept. 11, for the first time since World War II. Before that there were occasional security zones for certain events or ships.

"We are not going to respond and act the way we did before 9-11," Vice Adm. James Hull of the U.S. Coast Guard told ABCNEWS. "We are going to be more aware, we're going to know what our vulnerabilities are. Recreational sailors can't do everything they did before." One boater, asked if he knew how close he could get to a Navy ship, shook his head and laughed. "Not close," he said.

Not just Navy ships are off limits. There are more than 100 safety zones -- around nuclear power plants, cruise ships and military piers. And boaters can no longer anchor under bridges or in channels. They can be fined or arrested.

As the boating season officially gets underway, the estimated 70 million Americans who will take to the water this summer will have to get used to the new rules -- rules designed to prevent terrorist attacks.

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