|Two sets of eyes forward is best at all times.|
If you do any sort of nautical reading from time to time, either in magazines or in cruising guides, you'll find a small but mighty admonition that you should definitely heed: 'seek local knowledge.'
For instance: there are more than five marinas in Chester CT on the Connecticut River, all situated on the west bank opposite the channel which runs along the east bank. Since the river is wide and open in that section, it is easy to assume that one could just motor straight across to the channel without further consideration. However, loosely marked by a few nondescript white markers, a field of rocks sits between the banks just waiting to rise up and bite the outdrives off unsuspecting boats.
Just ask the beautiful Sabre Yacht sitting on the hard without pods. Those pods are a mere 200 yards away, keeping the fish company at the bottom of the river. But how could you know? Basically, you couldn't. Without seeking local knowledge, you'd never know. Even if you were an avid knowledge seeker, it doesn't even appear like there's anything to ask about!
Lesson: whenever you are visiting a new area in which you'll have to navigate out of a known, marked channel, always ask whether there is anything you should know about the area. And don't just ask one person; be sure to ask several to make sure you get the right consensus. Everyone likes to tell stories, especially on the dock! Asking multiple people will quickly indicate the real hazards and where they are.
Don't forget - boaters aren't only knowledgable about hazards; they're also great at pointing out the best local bar to attend once you get to your destination. So, happy asking!