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Be safe. It’s boating season on the Santee Cooper Lakes

June 07, 2017   By Willard Strong in Santee Cooper Lakes

Under S.C. law, a child 12 years old or younger must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device while boating

If you live around lakes Moultrie or Marion, or close by, the lure of the lakes is almost unavoidable. Just about everyone it seems, owns some type of watercraft, from 10-foot-long johnboats to V-8 powered inboard/outboards with that unmistakable rumble.

Safe boating is important and the old highway adage, “Watch out for the other guy,” certainly applies to our waterways, particularly this time of year. There have already been too many boating accidents in 2017 on South Carolina’s lakes and rivers.

While Santee Cooper manages our lakes, law enforcement is largely the domain of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), and county sheriff’s departments. SCDNR was out in full force during the long Memorial Day weekend, even offering “courtesy safety checks” at boat landings. Even though your boat may pass a safety check, it might be a good time to ask yourself the following:

  1. Is it time to replace all or some of your personal floatation devices or PFDs? Of course, we call them “life jackets,” and they’re like a parachute: When you really need a PFD, you really need it. Everyone on board must have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD, in good condition and the proper size for each wearer. If someone riding in your boat is 12 years old or younger, they’re supposed to be wearing a PFD. Also, if your boat is 16-feet long or less, you must have a Type IV “throwable device” on board.

  2. If your boat is 26-feet long or less, you must have a hand-held portable fire extinguisher, again Coast Guard approved.

  3. Going out at night? Sunset cruises and night fishing are fun, but make sure all your navigation lights come on. If one or all are out, consider replace them with LED bulbs. They last a lot longer and on my boat, I reduced the electric load by 2 amps. You are required to turn on your nav lights at sundown.

  4. You need a whistle or horn on board. I check mine last weekend. It worked. If yours doesn’t, be sure to replace it.

  5. Here’s something I just learned: If you operate your boat in coastal waters, you are required to have flares on board. Invest in some. They could save your life. (I don’t think bottle rockets or Roman candles qualify).

Of course, these aren’t all the rules of the water. But speaking from experience, if you are stopped the wildlife conservation officer will likely ask you to present your PFDs, your throw, fire extinguisher and check your horn or whistle.

Pay attention to the weather, as condition can change quickly in this season of afternoon and evening thunderstorms that are so common. If you see one coming, get off the water and don’t try and outrun the storm.

Boating on the Santee Cooper Lakes is tremendous fun and making memories this year has just began. Let’s keep those memories good ones by doing our part by being safe on the water. Happy boating!