CHARLESTON, W.Va. — This weekend is expected to be a popular time for folks to enjoy the water in West Virginia. Thousands will be somewhere in the state enjoying boating, fishing, or riding personal watercraft. The West Virginia Natural Resources Police warn boaters to enjoy the weekend, but make sure you do it with somebody sober at the helm.

“You have to have a sober skipper,” said Division of Natural Resources Lt. Jerry Payne. “We step up our patrol efforts and get more officers on the water just to look for impaired boaters.”

He added the weather conditions can make even a small amount of alcohol have much more impact on your condition.

“With the effects of the water, the sun, and the wind and the temperature, that all plays into it,” Payne explained. “Even a little bit of beer, you might be able to handle it on a normal day, but with the sun and the heat it makes the effects much more noticeable.”

The best plan for a day on the water, according to the Natural Resources Police, is to designate somebody to be the boat’s operator for the day. Many folks will cruise for several miles from the ramp, anchor up and enjoy the day, but then when it’s time to go home realize everybody on board has had too much to drink. Payne says in that instance, don’t take a chance, stay put.

“A lot of times, it will be two or three in the morning and you’ll see a boat coming down the river with no lights on,” said Payne. “You know something has gone horribly wrong somewhere.”

The scenario not only can get you a citation and hefty fine for boating under the influence, but it could also get you and others killed.

“An unloaded barge on the river sits 11 feet off the water,” said Payne. “Even if it has the proper lights, you may never see it and slam right into the side of it.”

While the NRPO will have its full compliment of staff on the state’s lakes and rivers this weekend, they admit they can’t be everywhere at once. Payne urged anyone who observes impaired boating operation or other violations to report them immediately.

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