Though some boaters have already been out on area waterways like Buckeye Lake for a couple weeks now, Memorial Day weekend traditionally kicks off the official boating season in Ohio.
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of people have been getting out and about in Ohio’s state parks and waterways, and this year is no exception, said Lt. Dawn Powell with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Watercraft.
“It’s a very busy weekend statewide,” Powell said. “Boating, camping, utilizing our state parks — that hasn’t died down.”
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It’s also the traditional first boating weekend in many other states, which is why this is National Safe Boating Week, which continues through Friday.
Here are four ways Powell says you can stay safe while you’re having fun out on the water:
Have all the needed boat safety equipment — and in good condition
First and foremost are the life jackets.
Not only should there be enough for everyone aboard, but they should also fit properly, be free from rips or tears, and be readily accessible in the boat, Powell said.
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Ideally, you should use life jackets that are certified by the U.S. Coast Guard. The same goes for the fire extinguishers aboard watercraft.
“If this is your first major voyage of the season or the summer,” make sure you have everything you need, Powell said.
Know where you’re going. Have a plan.
Look up your departure point and destination ahead of time, and file a float plan. Let people know where you’re going and when you intend to get there.
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Also, pay close attention to the weather. Conditions can change quickly, and you don’t want to be caught on open water without shelter or a backup plan.
Wherever you’re going, make sure you get there early.
Starting Memorial Day weekend and continuing throughout the summer, weekends are the busiest time for boating, fishing, camping and other activities.
Get to where you need to be sooner rather than later, Powell said. Be especially alert on waterways and in parking lots, where there’s a lot of activity, including pedestrians.
But don’t forget: Most state parks require you to take home everything you brought with you. This includes trash and recycling, which is an ongoing issue at places like Alum Creek, Powell said.
Leave the alcohol at home
Don’t even bring it with you onto the boat.
Nobody wants to be in a situation where they’re impaired enough to not know what to do during an emergency, Powell said.
“We will be out all weekend long,” she said of ODNR officers. “We will be making sure those laws — parking violations to boating violations to camping violations — are being followed.”
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- Wear your U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket and make sure everyone else on your boat also wears a life jacket that fits properly.
- Take a boating safety class. Gain valuable knowledge and experience in a boating safety course with many options for novice to experienced boaters. Find a boating safety course on the ODNR website at https://ohiodnr.gov/.
- Carry all required safety gear. Inspect equipment for holes, tears, and other damage.
- File a float plan. Always let someone on shore know the trip itinerary, including information about all passengers, boat type and registration, and communication on board.
- Be aware of weather and water conditions. Always check the forecast before departing on the water.
- Boat sober and be considerate of others. Be aware of other boaters around you and designate a sober skipper.
- In case of an emergency, power boaters should use the engine cut-off device, which is a proven way to stop the boat’s engine should the operator unexpectedly fall overboard.
Contact Nathaniel Shuda at (614) 245-0319 or [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter at @NathanielShuda or Facebook at facebook.com/NathanielShuda.
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