Valdosta Daily Times

July 6, 2013

Summer Safety: Boating, staying afloat, staying alive

Kristin Finney
The Valdosta Daily Times

-- — There are few activities more fun than boating during the summer. Whether it is taking a boat out on the lake, river or ocean, being on the water in a boat is a great way to enjoy the summer sun and be near the water.

However, with boating, there is the potential for many dangers. These are some safety tips to remember when riding on a boat.

Wear a life jacket: Wearing a life vest is always a good idea when out on a boat. If there is an accident and the boat flips over or a rider is thrown from the boat during a turn, a life jacket can be a true lifesaver. It does not matter if everyone on the boat knows how to swim. Two thirds of drowning victims are good swimmers.

File a float plan: A float plan is a form that boaters can fill out to let others know where they will be boating. This can be a lifesaver if a boat wrecks or runs out of gas and no one on board has access to a cell phone.

Take a boating safety course: A boating safety course is a simple way to learn all of the rules of boating including state regulations and proper driving procedures. While a boating education course is not mandatory for adults, it is required for children ages 12-15; in the state of Georgia, it is encouraged.

Know state laws: Each state has different laws regarding personal watercraft, life vests and skiing. In the state of Georgia, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s boating safety resource center, use of personal watercrafts are prohibited at night. It is also mandatory to have either wide rear-viewing mirrors on a boat or an observer when pulling someone on skis behind the boat. All children under 10 are required to wear a life jacket in an open vessel.

Know your limits: Many boaters feel comfortable drinking alcohol while operating a boat. In the state of Georgia, boating under the influence is monitored on a regular basis and prohibited. A person is considered to be intoxicated at 0.08 percent and field tests can be used to determine a person’s alcohol level. It is best to avoid alcohol while boating. If a person does consume alcohol, it is best to wear a life vest.

Know markers: There are two main types of markers, according to lateral and non-lateral markers. Lateral markers are either red or green and mark the edges of water ways. One saying to remember is “Red Right Return.” This means that when returning from open sea or heading upstream, keep the red markers on your right. Non-lateral markers indicate directions, hazards or controlled areas. These markers are often white and orange and may read “Rock,” “Slow No Wake,” or may aid boaters with which direction food or fuel is located. Mooring buoys are another important marker to keep an eye out for.

These tips can be the difference between life and death for boaters. To avoid getting caught in storms, it is important to keep an eye on the weather when planning a boat trip. Boaters should make sure to bring a map or GPS if going into an unfamiliar area.