OUTDOORS FEATURE: A reminder about safe boating

This weekend marks the beginning of National Safe Boating Week. Fishermen and all other boaters and personal watercraft users are reminded and encouraged to follow the rules of boating safely now and throughout the year.

This weekend marks the beginning of National Safe Boating Week. Fishermen and all other boaters and personal watercraft users are reminded and encouraged to follow the rules of boating safely now and throughout the year.

As the weather starts to warm up, families and friends gather together to enjoy the outdoors, travel on vacation and spend time on the water. Boating, fishing, sailing and other water sports are popular activities throughout the state.

With more time spent on the water — it’s important to remember the safety precautions to take during these recreational activities.

In an effort to urge Georgians to “Boat Smart. Boat Safe. Wear It.”, Governor Nathan Deal recently signed the “Georgia Safe Boating Week” proclamation to support Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Wildlife Resources Division efforts.

This proclamation urges those on the water to wear life jackets, file a float plan, stay sober and follow DNR regulations for safe boating.

“The support of the Governor’s Office brings an additional level of importance to our efforts to promote the ‘Wear It’ message,” says Capt. Mike England, DNR conservation ranger. “With a grant received from the National Safe Boating Council, we are going to be able to spread the ‘Wear It’ message even further.”

Receipt of this grant has allowed DNR to purchase giveaway items to award to those “caught” wearing their life jackets on the water.

Among these promotional items are brochures, an eye-catching stand-up banner, and large (4’x4’) stencils to utilize at boat ramps and parking lots where water-related activities are common.

This year during National Safe Boating Week (May 19-25) and throughout the boating season, the National Safe Boating Council is working with their partner organizations to encourage safe and responsible boating, including the practice of always wearing a life jacket, and being alert and aware while on the water.

U.S. Coast Guard nationwide statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities in 2010, and that 88 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

That’s why boating safety advocates continue to push for increased and consistent life jacket wear on the water.

The North American Safe Boating Campaign unites the efforts of a wide variety of boating safety advocates, including the National Association of Safe Boating Law Administrators, the Canadian Safe Boating Council and the many members of the National Safe Boating Council.

The campaign is funded by a grant from the Sports Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. Partners hold local events, teach classes, distribute educational materials and perform free Vessel Safety Checks, among other activities.

Memorial Day activities can often be thought of as a “kickoff” to increased boat usage in Georgia and practically everywhere.

Boaters out this weekend are urged by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, to stay sober and know the laws when operating their boats and/or personal watercraft.

There were 109 boating accidents and 11 boating related fatalities in 2012 in Georgia and conservation rangers made 168 boating under the influence arrests.

“We know that many people will be on the water with family and friends during the ongoing holiday weekend,” says Col. Eddie Henderson, Chief of Law Enforcement. “In an effort to keep everyone safe, we encourage boat operators to stay sober and alert and know Georgia’s boating laws before heading out on the water.”

DNR offers the following safety rules for boat and personal watercraft

(PWC) operators:

Designate an operator. Do not drink and operate a boat.

Take a boating safety course. Visit www.goboatgeorgia.com for course listings.

Wear a life jacket. Children under 10 years of age are required by law to wear a life jacket while onboard a moving boat, but it is highly recommended that EVERYONE follow this important safety rule.

Don’t overload your boat with people or equipment. Check on the capacity plate for the maximum weight or the maximum number of people the boat can safely carry.

Use navigation lights at ALL times when on the water at night.

Check lights before it gets dark.

Watch your speed. The 100-foot law applies to ALL size vessels and prohibits operation at speeds greater than idle speed within 100 feet of any vessel, unless overtaking or meeting another vessel in compliance with the rules of the “road.”

PWC operators also should be aware of these additional safety rules:

Do NOT jump the wake of another boat. This is a dangerously popular PWC activity and is not only unwise, but illegal.

Pay attention to your surroundings and make sure you stay well clear of other vessels.

Know Georgia’s age requirements for PWC operation.

Make sure everyone who operates your PWC is aware of boating laws and how to safely operate a PWC. As the owner, you can be held responsible, regardless of who might be operating the craft.

Make certain your boating equipment is up to date and safe. And, by all means, when venturing onto the water this weekend or anytime, don’t forget what might just be the most important piece of “equipment” of all: a generous supply of common sense.

For more information, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com/boating/safety.