Looking forward to Memorial Day Weekend and the busy summer boating and floating season on the water? If so, the Grand River Dam Authority Police Department wants to remind you of some important information that can help promote a safe time on the water.
Whether visiting GRDA’s Grand Lake, Lake Hudson, or the scenic Illinois River, it is important to remember that enjoyable outings always start with boating – and floating – safe, smart and sober. GRDA has shared the following “Dos and Dont’s” often, but as you head to the water, keep these in mind:
- Do wear a life jacket. For those floating the river, children 13 years of age and under are required to always wear a life jacket. On the lake, children 12 years of age and younger are required to wear a life jacket on vessels under 26 feet long. However, GRDA encourages all ages to always wear a life jacket.
- Don’t drink and boat. Alcohol use continues to be the single leading factor contributing to boating accidents.
- Do know the water and environment.
- Do keep a good lookout while underway.
- Do shut engines off when people are in the water near your boat.
- Do observe the nautical “rules of the road.”
- Do check the weather forecast before getting underway.
- Do keep a balanced load and trim boat.
- Don’t overload the boat.
- Don’t ride on the gunwale, bow, seat backs or any place that is not designated for sitting.
- Don’t swim or boat alone. Stay within sight of companions.
- For those floating the river, do let the commercial float operator know if anyone in the party is a first-time or novice floater(s). They may be able to pair them with an experienced paddler/floater or float the person in a raft where there is a lesser chance for capsizing.
- Don’t dive into the river from bridges, bluffs, stream banks and trees.
- Do respect the weather and the water. If tired while floating, take a break on the bank or on a gravel bar to rest.
For those planning on hitting the water on a personal watercraft, the GRDA Police also offers these important safety tips:
- Don’t ride tired. PWC operation requires a real sense of balance. Tired operators do not have as much balance, which means less controlled operation.
- Watch the weight. Don’t carry more passengers or weight than is recommended in the PWC’s owner manual. The heavier the load, the harder it is to handle and turn the PWC.
- Watch out for others. Because lake traffic changes constantly, riders must always be aware of their surroundings.
- Know what the craft is capable of. Just because a person has ridden a PWC before, don’t assume they are all the same. For the most part, they are very similar, but riders must be educated about the specifics of the craft they are operating.
- Know the location on the water. Watch out for hazards such as rocks, buoys, sandbars, and skiers. Even though PWCs are designed to operate in shallow waters, it is important to remember that shallow water can become no water in a hurry. Avoid such areas.
- Never drink and ride. PWC operation requires clear thinking, quick decisions, the ability to focus, depth perception, ability to judge speed and distance and ability to track moving objects. Alcohol impairs all these abilities while also affecting balance. Oftentimes, PWC injuries occur when people fall into the water and are too inebriated to climb back on board.
- Watch the speed. Many PWC accidents are a result of excessive speed. PWC operators must match their speed to their skills. Don’t be overmatched by traveling too fast.
For more information about the GRDA Police Department or how an officer can assist community members, contact the department at 918-256-0911. Finally, if those who need assistance from a boat are encouraged to call 911, or if no cell phone is available, radio the GRDA Police on Marine Band 16. The GRDA Scenic River Operations Office, (918) 456-3251, is located at 15971 N. Highway 10 in Tahlequah.