Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Marine Patrol Division is working hard to keep boaters on Lake Guntersville safe this holiday weekend. With an inflated number of boats on the water, the Marine Patrol will have their work cut out for them; they will rely on the public’s help to make sure the long weekend remains fun and safe for everyone.
Corporal Robert Ping said common sense should prevail on the water this weekend.
“We will have to depend on the boating public to use common sense and to be courteous,” he said. “In a nutshell, our force isn’t built for a holiday weekend with four to five times more vessels on the water than normal.”
That common sense should extend to abiding by the typical rules and regulations, as well as some other lake safety tips to keep in mind while out on the water this holiday weekend. Corp. Ping, along with Senior Troopers Daniel Money and James Young, came up with following list for Lake Guntersville boaters:
● If you’re an inexperienced driver, please don’t get out here this weekend, as congested as it is.
● Have proper life jackets on board. Make sure everyone knows how to wear them and that there are enough for everyone on board, not just drivers.
● Kids under age 8 need to have life jackets on at all times on a boat, paddle board or canoe.
● Personal watercraft (PWC) require a Type IV, Coast Guard approved life jacket. These usually come equipped with a zipper and/or buckles and fit snugly across the body.
● During nighttime hours, be sure to have a map of the lake handy, wear your life jacket, know where everything is at all times and that it is all accessible.
● Be courteous and don’t stay in one area too long or you could create a hazardous wake for nearby boaters or swimmers.
● If you’re meeting in the channel, pass on the right.
● Jet skis are only allowed to be driven on the lake between sunrise and sunset because they do not have lights. Also, keeping the lanyard clipped to the driver is required to stop the jet ski if the driver gets thrown off, otherwise the jet ski could circle back around and hit the driver or someone else.
● If you have to operate your docking lights at night, use intermittently to get your bearings, then turn them off. Docking lights are not the same as regular headlights and can blind oncoming boaters.
● Stay within the safety features and boundaries of the boat, such as behind the railing on a pontoon, when the vessel is in motion.
● Every boat requires a sound device, like a horn or a whistle.
ALEA will be paying close attention to life jackets, boater capacity and alcohol usage while patrolling the water.
Life jackets increase survivability rate by about 80 percent, according to Corp. Ping, who said the best life jacket is one that is comfortable enough for the user to actually wear.
“It’s like hitting cement if you hit the water,” Sr. Trooper Young said. “If you’re unconscious, a life jacket will most likely – not always, but most likely – flip you upright with your face above the water.”
Boating under the influence (BUI) is another big issue on the water and generally always leads to trouble. While drinking is allowed on boats within Guntersville city limits (Marshall County is otherwise dry), moderation is always recommended, particularly for drivers.
“Alcohol adds to problems like sun, wind and boater’s fatigue,” Sr. Trooper Money said. “Alcohol can mess with your ability to function quickly. Three drinks out here can seem more like eight. It’s a bad idea to drink and operate a vessel on the water.”
Marine Patrol will also be cracking down on boater capacity this weekend. They advise lake goers to adhere to either the number of passengers or the weight limit listed on the boat; not both.
“Courtesy is the biggest thing,” Corporal Ping said. “And I don’t mean just for other boaters, but for swimmers, too. You need to be mindful of the wake you’re creating, especially when you see people congregating on a dock, that usually means there are swimmers in the water, most likely kids.”
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