Hot summer weather drives many people to the water to beat the heat. With these safety tips you could beat getting injured, too.
“Accidents can happen quickly and without warning,” said Major Chris Huebner of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the state’s boating safety coordinator. “In those situations, there often isn’t time to grab a life vest and put it on properly before you are in the water. The best preparation is to wear it whenever you are under way. A life vest can be a life saver when it’s worn. It also gives you the ability to assist others who may be in danger.”
North Carolina requires anyone younger than 13 to wear an appropriate life vest when on a recreational vessel that is under way. Anyone riding a personal watercraft or being towed by one must also wear an appropriate life vest.
Both state and federal regulations require that a Type I, II or III personal flotation device in good condition and of appropriate size be accessible for each person on board a recreational vessel, including canoes, kayaks, rowboats and other non-motorized craft. (Sailboards, racing shells, rowing sculls, racing canoes and racing kayaks are exempt from this requirement.)
Being prepared also means keeping a fire extinguisher on board, as well as a bell, whistle or other noise-making device.
Apart from having the correct documentation to show you passed a boating safety education course, there are common courtesies to mind while you are on the water. Avoid causing erosion by operating at no wake near shore or in narrow streams or rivers. Make sure all passengers have proper life vests and have a safety discussion before departure. To avoid noise pollution, vary your operating areas. Stay aware and respect others using the waterways. For example, reduce your wake around those fishing or using smaller vessels. Leave the environment the way you found it. Take all trash back to shore to be disposed of properly.
Mark Dutton is a Richmond County sergeant for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Law Enforcement Division. He frequently patrols the Pee Dee River. He said he often sees issues with boat overloading.
“Overloading small boats is something you want to avoid,” said Dutton. “Sometimes people put too much camping gear and too many people in them. I think that was what happened two weeks ago when we had that incident.”
Dutton is referring to an accident on the Pee Dee River on July 1, during which two men helped a family of five whose boat had overturned. But that’s not all he’s worried about.
“The number one concern for us is operating a boat while impaired,” said Dutton. “Or people impaired on jet skis. It leads to careless operation.”
Just like when driving a car, your blood alcohol level should not exceed .08 or you could face charges and fines.
Quickly changing weather can be an alarming sight on the river.
“Watch the weather,” said Dutton. “Weather can change quickly. Being on the water during lightning is extremely dangerous. Also avoid hazardous areas, like above or below the dam or by the intake.”
Apart from dangers, Dutton warns about courtesies as well.
“Don’t litter,” he stressed. “It’s a big problem here.”
Littering in the river can damage the ecosystem that many enjoy for fishing and swimming, and littering at the camp site makes extra work for others.
Dutton said boating safety education courses are taught in Richmond County. To check the schedule for the next class, visit www.ncwildlife.org. All classes are free.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.