CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Although the weather has been inviting for boating for more than a month and fishermen have had their boats on the water since early March, a lot of pleasure craft will be on the water for the first time in 2019 this weekend. It’s a time the Natural Resources Police expect problems to start happening.
“The start of the boating season typically starts with everybody meeting up for a good time at the marina,” said Lt. Ed Goodson of the Division of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Section. “But because of improper storage or improper maintenance , there are going to be some problems.”
He recommends not making the first outing of the year your first time on the water. Owners of center console boats should carefully go over all of the boat’s systems and fluids to insure proper working order and get it fixed early, rather than ruing a holiday weekend. Ideally, these tasks are done before you take your boat out of your boat storage unit.
Natural Resources Police will be heavily patrolling the state’s lakes and navigable rivers. According to Goodson, they are on the lookout for all violations–but a child not wearing a life jacket will get an officer’s attention faster than anything.
“Kids 12 and under do not have to have a life jacket on when the boat is moored, docked, anchored, and tied off,” he said. “But once you start and are underway, those 12 and hundred HAVE to have a life jacket on and that’s what we’re looking for.”
There must be a life jacket readily available for everybody on board even though adults are not required to wear them. They need to be jackets which are made for the adult or child and need to be close at hand, not stuffed under the seats.
Officers will patrol the water during peak times and have an eye out for unsafe operations. Goodson said the biggest issue they run into is boaters who want to join the party rather than oversee it.
“It’s okay if you go out and have a good time with that cooler, but make sure you have a sober skipper and a captain on board who is going to remain aware of his or her surroundings and not have any alcohol in his system,” said Goodson.
Goodson wants everybody to have a good time, but understand the boating safety laws, obey them, and be safe.