Friday, June 7th, 2024

Be Safe On The Water

Follow these tips for fun - and safe - boating

By Abigail Miller
Photo by Bill Thornbro/The Daily Standard

Assorted life preservers

CELINA - Rising temperatures and clear skies may have boaters thinking about setting sail on Grand Lake.

However, before leaving shore, they should consider safety measures to ensure a smooth ride.

Create a float plan

First, St. Marys Boat Club Commodore Phil Fuerst recommends travelers create a float plan to share with friends and family to let them know where the boat is going and when it should be back.

"If you're going to take off in a boat, people need to know that they're going to do such and such, and they're expected back at about 2 o'clock," Fuerst said. "So that (way) people have an idea when you're overdue or whatever. You can get into trouble and probably the surest sign of somebody being in trouble is that their schedule's all out of whack. A float plan is a good idea."

Wear a life jacket

Once on the boat, the most important safety measure one can practice while on the water is to wear a life jacket, Fuerst said.

"I think most people are pretty casual about life jackets," he said. "Particularly small children and the kids will fuss. They don't want to wear them and all that, but it's like, you know, if the boat overturns, you're not going to be able to grab that life jacket."

Boat sober

In Ohio, alcohol is involved in nearly a quarter of all fatal boating accidents, according to an Ohio Department of Natural Resources news release. Just like driving a car, it's illegal in Ohio to operate a boat with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher. Operating a boat under the influence carries serious consequences such as being arrested and having the boat impounded.

Watch the weather

Always check the forecast before departing on the water and frequently during the excursion, ODNR recommends.

Weather and wave conditions can change suddenly, catching boaters off guard and creating life threatening conditions, per the National Weather Service.

Inspect your boat

Inspecting the boat is always a good idea before venturing out on the water, Fuerst said. In particular, an annual boat inspection is a must at the beginning of boating season.

"Some sort of annual inspection is a good idea," Fuerst said. "At our boat club, we have a couple of gentlemen that are on the U.S. Power Squadron and they actually do a checklist type boat inspection, whether it be for a sailboat or for a powerboat. You can end up getting a sticker if everything checks out."

Conduct a safety briefing

Prior to taking off, Fuerst encouraged boat owners to show passengers where everything on the boat is located and what to do in the event of an emergency.

"Everybody that's on the boat needs to know what to do," he said. "If the captain or the person who's going to be managing the boat, steering the boat, piloting the boat is suddenly not there, they're all overboard, somebody needs to know what to do. A safety briefing, and telling everybody, 'OK, here's where the life jackets are, here's where the fire extinguisher is, here's how to kill the engine if you need to.' A safety briefing that kind of covers where everything's at, if you ever need it."

Beware of obstructions

Don Siler of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Watercraft said boaters should be aware of the islands and rock jetties on the lake. At night, boaters should be aware of background lights, the 10 mph speed limit and having navigation lights turned on.

"Our officers are out there making sure people have their navigation lights on so people know what they're looking at, what to look for and how to operate," he said.

Above all, Siler stressed the importance of knowing the locations of no-wake zones.

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"We encourage boaters to stop and read the buoys. That way you're not going into a beach area where people are swimming or a no-wake zone where your wake could potentially cause damage to somebody's property or potentially a person as well," he said.

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