1. Make sure that you have plenty of personal floatation devices (PFD’s) for those in your party. All PFD’s should be the proper size for the person wearing them. Also, any children under the age of 13 are required to wear their PFD at all times while the boat is moving. This includes under power from the engine or adrift. Remember, a PFD is like a seat belt and it will save your life. WEAR IT GEORGIA!
2. Think before you drink. Last year the legal limit for operating a vessel under the influence was changed to 0.08 blood alcohol concentration. This is the same limit as on the highway. It is also illegal to operate a boat under the influence of drugs as well. Everyone wants to have a good time while on the water, but please have a sober boat operator. Anyone who is convicted of operating a vessel under the influence will lose their privilege to operate a boat, pay a heavy fine, and could be sentenced to 1 year in jail.
3. Check your lights before you leave the dock or boat ramp. Although you may not plan on staying out past sunset an issue with your boat could come up that may leave you out on the water. Most serious boat incidents happen during the hours of darkness and often it involves an issue with one, or both, boats not having the proper lighting. Make sure the lights are functioning properly and carry some extra fuses and bulbs just in case.
4. Make sure your boat or PWC is registered. Operating a boat without a registration is the same as operating a car without registration. All boats that have any mechanical propulsion, trolling motors included, are required by law to be registered before being operated on public waters. The registration process can be slow, but if you have documentation that the registration process has been started, you can still go out on the water with a temporary number. Make sure to have this documentation with you if you go out before you receive your registration in the mail. Visit goboatgeorgia.com for more information.
5. Stay to the right while traveling across the water. Just like driving on the highway make sure to stay on your side, the right. Busy holiday weekends can make this almost impossible with so many boaters but if you are traveling on the wrong side of the channel it can create confusion to others. Also coming around blind points on the wrong side could cause a serious collision with another boat. If you are on the wrong side of the channel then you would be at fault.
6. Be safe on your PWC. These are great way to have fun on the water. However, PWC’s account for about 80% of all boating incidents. Many people are unaware that it is illegal to jump the wake of another boat while operating a PWC. It is also illegal to operate a PWC greater than idle speed within 100 feet of an object in the water unless you are passing another vessel. Please remember that PWC’s cannot be operated between sunset and sunrise. Check the local news, newspaper, or Smart Phone for sunset times the day you go to the lake. Allow yourself enough time to get back to the dock or boat ramp before sunset.
7. Pay attention to signs and marker poles. Many of these marker poles and signs are there to warn boaters of dangers that may be underwater such as reefs, rocks, or shallow areas. Around swimming areas there are signs warning boats to stay out. The marker poles usually mark shallow water and you should not pass between the pole and the shoreline. Also avoid traveling through flooded areas when the water level rises after a big rain event.
8. Take a boating safety course. These courses are designed to teach the student to be a safe boat operator. Effective July 1, 2014 anyone born on or after January 1, 1998 who operates a motorized boat on public waters is required to complete a boating safety course. These classes are being taught in your area by the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and the US Power Squadron. You can also take a course on line but there may be a fee involved. Also, if you plan to rent a boat you must complete a boating safety course. You must show proof of completion of the course before being allowed to operate the boat you rent. Call the Georgia Department of Natural Resources-Law Enforcement Division office at 770-769-9680 for class schedules.
9. File a float plan. It is good practice to always let someone know when you are going out on the water and when you plan to return. Let them know where you are going to launch your boat, the number of people in your party, and a description of your boat with the registration number. If you are not back in a reasonable time, this person can notify emergency personnel of your whereabouts. This information could speed up emergency personnel in locating you in the event of a serious situation. If you, the boater, call 911 for help understand that it may take some time for emergency personnel to reach your location. Often times the 911 operator may call you back to try and get a better location from you. It would be advised to keep a phone charger in your boat just for this situation.
10. Avoid over exposure to exhaust fumes from the boat. Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen even on a boat. Do not allow your passengers to hang on the swim platform of your boat while the motor is running or the boat is moving. This is a very dangerous place because the fumes from the boat exhaust are heaviest in this location. Any person in this area that is exposed to the fumes high levels of carbon monoxide and will simply pass out before you can do anything about it. This could lead to serious injury or death in just a matter of minutes.
In all we want the boating public to have an enjoyable time while on the water. Taking extra time to make sure that everyone is safe will lead to a more enjoyable time for all boaters.