SOUTH CHARELSTON, W.Va. — Memorial Day weekend kicks off the boating season across the country and this is National Safe Boating week.
It’s anticipated West Virginia lakes and rivers will be dotted with pleasure craft of all sizes this weekend starting off the summer on the water. However, Lt. Ed Goodson of the West Virginia Natural Resources Police suggests giving your craft the once over this week before you have it loaded with friends and family this weekend.
“The most important thing for your boat is the safety equipment. PFD’s or life jackets, have them readily available. Your other safety equipment like fire extinguisher and a noise making device as well as your lights need to be checked out and in working order,” explained Goodson in a recent edition of West Virginia Outdoors.
The lights are particularly important. Without them, it’s illegal as well as extremely dangerous to operate at night. While stored for the winter, it’s not uncommon for a family of mice to have made a home inside your wiring system and put your lights out of commission. This week is the best time to track down those issues.
It’s a good idea to get the boat out on the water early to make sure the engine and all other systems are in working order. Check your fuel to insure the mix is proper and all on-board pumps and systems are functioning normally. You could be in for at the very least an embarrassing and fun killing incident and at worst a dangerous situation if you fail to do the proper maintenance.
“This is when we’re going to see a lot of boats towed back to the dock. They’ve been sitting all fall and winter and the maintenance hasn’t been performed. Get all of that taken care of before you get out on the water. We will see a lot of tow ropes this weekend,” Goodson said.
Anyone born after 1986 is required in West Virginia to complete a boating safety course. Those are available in-person or on-line. Goodson, who heads up boating safety for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, suggested it’s not a bad idea to take the course even if you’re not required.
“It’s going to benefit you. You need to know what the red or green or white stern lights mean. All of those lights mean something. You need to know how to pass another boat. Those are navigational rules and you need to know these things,” he explained.
It’s also imperative if you and friends intend to celebrate with alcohol as least somebody on board remain the sober skipper. It’s the equivalent of the designated driver when you go out on the town on land.
“Just like a DUI, there is BUI, it’s the same thing. The legal limit is .0.08. We want everybody to have a good time and enjoy themselves on the boat, but always have somebody there who is sober and is able to operate the boat and get those folks who are celebrating back to the dock safely,” he explained.
The Natural Resources Police will have their full compliment of patrol officers on the large lakes and rivers of West Virginia patrolling for potential safety problems and violations during the Memorial Day weekend.