Van McWhorter of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Okatibbee Lake shared some basic tips to help increase the safety level on or in the water.
"I'd say number one is know a lot about your vessel," said McWhorter. "Know as much as you can. Basically, just read that manual and sit in that vessel and study it. The second thing that people need to know is common safety do's and dont's while on the water. Know that we have navigational markers out there on the lake. Know that there are also restricted areas such as the swimming areas. Stay away from them."
McWhorter also advises:
- Know the rules of the road. Pay attention to signs posted at the lake, river, or stream.
- Have safety equipment. Personal flotation devices should be worn not just close by.
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Tips for safe boating
- Be weather wise: Sudden wind shifts, lightning flashes and choppy water all can mean a storm is brewing. Bring a portable radio to check weather reports.
- Bring extra gear you may need: A flashlight, extra batteries, matches, a map of where you are, flares, sun tan lotion, first aid kit, extra sunglasses. Put those that need to be protected in a watertight pouch or a container that floats.
- Tell someone where you're going, who is with you, and how long you'll be away. Then check your boat, equipment, boat balance, engine and fuel supply before leaving.
- Stay dry and warm: Wear several layers of light clothing; bring rainproof covering. Never wear hip waders in a small boat.
- Keep fishing & hunting gear clean and well packed. A loose fishhook can cause a lot of pain and ruin a great outing. Bring an extra length of line to secure boat or equipment.
- Take a safe boating course. As an extra benefit, you may earn lower boat insurance costs.
Boats and alcohol don't mix
- Over 1,000 people die in boating accidents every year, about half those deaths involve alcohol.
- It is a tragic fact and not a joke, but 50 percent of drunk men who drown have their fly unzipped.
- Four hours of exposure to powerboat noise, vibration, sun, glare, wind and motion produces a kind of "boater's hypnosis". This slows reactions almost as much as being legally drunk.
- Adding alcohol to this sun exposure intensifies the effects, and sometimes just a couple of beers are too many.
- When you're "tipsy", you are much more likely to fall overboard.
- A drunk person whose head is immersed can be confused and swim down to death instead of up to safety.
Source: http://www.boatwashington.org/boatingtips.htm (United Safe Boating Institute Web site)