While many people prepare for a fun Memorial Day weekend on the lake, it’s important to know how to stay safe on the water.
This week is National Safe Boating Week and Chelsea Hofmeier, boating education coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, said the department is using it to remind people the importance of staying safe over the holiday.
“[Memorial Day is] the opening weekend for a lot of people to start boating for the summer, and so it’s just a busy boating weekend no matter what the weather throws at us,” Hofmeier said.
Anyone ages 12-20 needs to have a boating education certificate in order to operate a watercraft. For those wanting to get certified by this weekend, they can take an online timed course — intended to take at least three hours — on the department’s website. There are five approved courses to choose from and the costs vary from free to $54.95.
Before taking your boat out, it’s important to make sure it’s working properly, the registration is up-to-date and all the proper equipment is on board. A list of all equipment needed can be found at https://ksoutdoors.com/Boating/Boating-Legally/Requirements/Equipment.
Hofmeier said Memorial Day not only brings long-time boaters, but also new boaters just starting to gain their footing. Heavy crowds — 80,000 to 90,000 people are expected to visit El Dorado lake this weekend — make it even more important to stay alert, Hofmeier said.
“While you’re driving, always make sure you have a proper lookout, paying attention to what you’re doing while you’re out on the water,” Hofmeier said.
Lifejackets are a must-have, Hofmeier said.
“There has to be one for everybody on board, [they] have to be in good, usable condition, Coast Guard approved, they have to fit everybody correctly, and have to be out and readily accessible,” she said.
As for alcohol? Leave it on shore.
“Anytime there is a holiday weekend, and memorial weekend is no exception, [it] often brings poor decisions when it comes to operating watercraft and drinking at the same time,” Hofmeier said. “A DUI equals a DUI. It’s the same thing if you were to drink and get into a vehicle.”
As for fun water activities, Hofmeier said to make sure to follow all safety protocols. From ksoutdoors.com:
Boats must have a wide angle mirror
Boats must have an observer over the age of 12
Boaters can only ski/tow from a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset
A bright orange flag must be up when the skier is down, and down when the skier is up
Hofmeier said even if the weather seems perfect, it’s important to stay aware of the water temperature.
“The weather might be, hopefully, really nice,” Hofmeier said. “That doesn’t always necessarily mean the water has caught up … The water might not be as warm as you think it is, so pay attention to that, make sure everyone is comfortable and that the water is not too cold to be in.”
To view all boating requirements and more safety tips, visit https://ksoutdoors.com/Boating.