From ACA Rules of the Road:
First and foremost, be aware of your surroundings. You may be the only craft on the water, or sharing the channel with a large container ship. Whatever the circumstance, your awareness of other traffic may make the sole difference in everyone’s safety. Paddlers do not travel as fast as motorized craft. If you see a powerboat, do not assume that you can pass ahead of it if traveling across its path. The safest way for paddle craft to cross the path of a powerboat is astern. Remember to cross other boats as a group instead of straggling across the river and blocking other traffic. In shared waterways, the more boaters watching for others, the safer everyone will be.
Some busy waterways have “lanes of travel” similar to the Interstate highway system. Know the area you plan to paddle. If you are near commercial waterways, the navigation charts change often and you need a current set. The depth of the channel may limit deep-draft vessels. You, however, are mobile and agile. Make use of your ability to move out of the way. If you are not crossing the channel stay close to shore. Large stationary objects offer a margin of protection. At night, a white light must be shown toward oncoming traffic. Bright colors not only help keep track of fellow paddlers, but make you far easier to see if separated from your craft. If motorized craft are nearby, you are far less likely to capsize if you turn your bow into the wave and don’t take the wake broadside.
See and Be Seen
Wear bright, noticable clothing • Use reflective tape on your paddle blades • Keep your whistle handy • Any vessel less than 20 meters should not impede the passage of a larger ship, whether under power or not. • Monitor Channels 13 & 16 on your VHF Radio • At night and during low-light conditions, a white light must be shown toward oncoming traffic