Caution urged on county’s waterways

Published 12:03 am Saturday, July 4, 2009

Covington County has an abundance of waterways, and it is likely those rivers and lakes will be filled with boaters this Fourth of July holiday.

Rick Miller, education and public outreach coordinator for the Alabama Marine Police, said there are a few things boaters should remember before heading out to water ski on Gantt Lake or to do some fishing on Opp’s Frank Jackson Lake.

“Last year, there were 10 boating accidents statewide,” Miller said. “There were also 433 citations issued for violations ranging from operating a vessel without a license, insufficient life preservers and reckless operations. There were also more dangerous ones like boating while intoxicated and illegal possession of alcohol.”

Miller said boaters should follow these safety tips:

Check your boat. Many people put their boats in the water without first checking belts, fluids and motors, and end up having to be towed in. Make sure your boat is in good working order before taking it out for the first time.

Check your safety equipment. Often boaters take their safety equipment out of the boat for the winter season. Make sure all required equipment – which includes life vests, ignition safety switch, and a fire extinguisher –is put on the boat and is in good working order.

Check your life jackets. Make sure all life jackets are in good working order. All straps, buckles and zippers need to be operational, and the life jackets cannot have any rips or tears.

Learn the courtesy of the water. From the time you start to tow the boat to the launching ramp until the time you take it out at night, courtesy plays a big part in the boating adventure. Remember the golden rule and treat others the way you would want to be treated. Be careful of your wake, both around homes and around other boaters. Don’t tie up the launching ramp while loading equipment on and off your boat.