'Tis the season-- for safe boating - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

'Tis the season-- for safe boating

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May 24, 2005

Albany-- Memorial Day weekend is almost here. For many people, that's the first weekend of the year to hit the lake. But before you crank up that boat or jet ski, make sure you know the rules of the water.

People typically crowd south Georgia lakes and rivers during the long Memorial Day weekend. When the water is packed, it's especially important to be considerate of other boaters and swimmers.

And many of those accidents could have been prevented if people would've followed state boating laws. As families hit to the lake this holiday weekend, DNR Rangers will be patrolling the water.

"How are you doing sir?" As DNR Ranger Scott Carroll pulls along side Leon Mitchell's fishing boat, he asks: "Do you mind if we take a quick look at your fishing license and your safety equipment?"

They're looking for people breaking the laws and putting others in danger. Ranger Carroll says the first safety tips-- don't get to the boat dock before you make sure your vessel is ready for the water. "Make sure to take a look before you get out on the lake to make sure everything is in proper working condition Make sure all your PFD's are in good condition. Make sure your fire extinguishers aren't discharged or not working."

You must have a life jacket for everyone on board, and children under ten must wear there's on the boat. "We don't want to see a small child wearing an adult size PFD. If they were to go in, it could come right off of them and not serve its purpose," Carroll said.

All jet skiers, water skiers and tubers must wear life jackets. And remember, not everyone on the lake has the same agenda.

Long time fisherman, Leon Mitchell, says his biggest pet peeve is jet skiers. "They don't slow down, they just rip right by you," he said.

It's not only inconsiderate it's also illegal. You can't jump the wake of another vessel when you're less than 100 feet away, and it's illegal to buzz docks or other vessels.

"Show the fisherman, skiers, and pleasure riders a little bit of courtesy," Mitchell said.

If the water is jammed, pass other boats on the right, just like on the road. When crossing, the boat on the right should hold its course and the boat on the left should slow down and cross behind the other boat.

Never cut between a boat and a fallen water skier. And fallen skiers should hold up a ski so other boaters can spot them in the water.

Survey the water before heading out, recent flooding left a lot of debris in some south Georgia rivers and lakes. "Some of it may be floating just under the surface that you're not aware of," Carrol said. "Take some time to inspect the are that you're in to make sure in appears safe."

A little preparation, consideration, and common sense can keep you safe on the water this Memorial Day weekend. No one under 16 years old can drive a boat or jet ski, unless they've completed a boating safety course or are accompanied by an adult.

Last year, 25 people were killed in boating related accidents in Georgia. The DNR arrested 195 people for boating under the influence.

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