What to know before you take your boat out on Memorial Day - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

What to know before you take your boat out on Memorial Day

Governor Nathan Deal's Safe Boating Week proclamation Governor Nathan Deal's Safe Boating Week proclamation

Officials tell News Leader 9 about 100 people have drowned on West Point Lake since it opened.  They add that most of those accidents could have been avoided by a life jacket.  

"In fact last year we had a young man, 18 years old, who tried to swim out to a buoy just to see if he could. He was not wearing his life jacket and unfortunately he [drowned]," explained Park Ranger Rocky Millenbine.

 "You don't ever know what you may hit, a stump or something underneath the water, and it may propel you in to the water," said Alexander Bernard Wilson. WTVM found him fishing on West Point Lake on Friday. 

Kevin Ledbetter was cruising around in his boat on his day off and gave us some good advice to share, "You pretty much have to keep a safety zone around your boat and keep your head on a swivel.  If you don't, when you least expect it, someone will side swipe you. If you don't get hit, it will still be too close for comfort. "

 After sitting up for the winter, make sure the fire extinguisher and life jackets on your boat are working.  And, "make sure you have good gasoline in your boat and it hasn't been sitting all winter," said Millenbine. 

With the changing water levels, you should stay within the buoys that mark the main channel, even if you are an experienced boater.  "At night we have blinking lights that help guide people through the lake which can help out tremendously because once it gets dark, it is like a whole new world out here."

 And, if you do find yourself in trouble out on the water, call 911 and then use channel 16 on your marine radio. 

If you are operating a boat, in the state of Alabama or Georgia, you must have a blood alcohol level lower than .08.  Rangers say drinking and driving a boat can be even more dangerous than drinking and driving a car.  "Because most of the time you are dehydrated anyway because you are out in the sun and doing strenuous activity and that kind of thing like swimming and having a great time, so, it can really sneak up on you."

DNR Rangers and other officials will be patrolling the waters this summer.  They advise you to designate a boat operator.

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