Boaters reminded to practice safety when on the lake

Published 9:13 am Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Memorial Day weekend is coming up, marking the official start of the summer. Just like any other summer day, there’s nothing like being on the open water. The sun warms the skin, lake breezes cool and waves slapping the side of the boat have a hypnotic way of pushing one’s worries aside.
Of course, the idea is to return safely to the work-a-day world after spending time on Watauga Lake or rafting or canoeing down the Watauga River. The best way to make that happen is to listen to those who patrol our summer water havens.
Wear personal flotation devices (life preservers), or at least have them available in your boat for yourself and all passengers; curtail alcohol consumption while on the water; don’t operate boats in a reckless manner. That’s the easy-to-take advice from members of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
It’s commonsense that can save your life, avoid a fatal water accident or keep you from getting a citation from the TWRA.
But all too often, boaters ignore those bits of wisdom. When that happens, expect bad things.
Last year, 17 people were arrested for operating a boat under the influence on Tennessee lakes. TWRA wildlife officers reported one injury accident and five property damage incidents.
Thus far in 2018, there have been five boating-related fatalities, four injury-accident incidents, and five property damage incidents. Three of the five fatalities have involved paddlecrafts.
Along with the use of life jackets, TWRA wants to stress the responsible use of alcohol while boating. It is important to consider the effects of drinking and driving whether on water or land. In a boat on the water, the effects of alcohol increase because of external stressors such as engine vibration, wave motion and glare from the sun. Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in Tennessee.
Law enforcement personnel patrol area lakes not to deter folks from having a good time, but to encourage safe boating, inspect boats for safety equipment and remind inland sailors that drunken boating is a bad idea. Makes sense, right?
Relaxing on the water is not a time to let one’s guard down. Captaining a boat is akin to driving, except without brakes. Reaction times lessen, especially at night. Drinking and helming a boat have the same consequences as drinking and driving a vehicle on roadways.
For many residents, the Memorial Day weekend will be the first time to have the boat on the water this year. TWRA officials say taking a few minutes to check some of the boat components may be the key to having a nice, safe outing. Performing a simple maintenance check before getting on the water may prevent problems. Check hoses to make sure they are in good shape. Make sure the lights work and carry extra fuses and bulbs.
In addition, TWRA urges all boaters to remember the basics:
• have a wearable life jacket for every person onboard
• if your boat is 16 feet or longer, there must be a Type IV throwable device onboard
• have onboard a fire extinguisher if you have enclosed fuel compartments or cabins
• anyone under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket at all times while the boat is underway — drifting is considered underway
• any boat operator born after January 1, 1989 must have onboard the TWRA-issued wallet Boating Safety Education Certificate
• choose a designated boat operator
• make sure there is a current boat registration
Boat Operation Basics:
• keep a proper lookout at all times
• maintain a safe speed
• cut the engine while boarding from the water or entering the water from the boat
• be aware of the carbon monoxide hazards that exist and keep fresh air flowing
• ”no wake” means idle speed
• boating safety courses — log onto www.tnwildlife.orgfor information.
Please pay attention while you’re on the water. Nobody wants to spoil a day of lake boating and turn into a statistic by engaging in foolish behavior.

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