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Safe Boating Tips

The Santee Cooper Lakes are one of South Carolina's greatest recreational resources. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy them safely.

  • Alcohol and lake water don't mix! Do not operate a boat if you've been drinking. Using alcohol dramatically increases your chances of being involved in a boating accident. Boating under the influence is an offense punishable by fines and loss of your boating privileges.
  • Wear your personal floatation device (PFD) at all times. It's estimated that 90 percent of boating fatalities could have been avoid by wearing a personal floatation device.
  • Children should wear PFDs any time they're near water.
  • Make sure your boat is in good operating condition. Taking a few minutes to check your boat before you cast off could save you hours of drifting if you encounter a problem.
  • Take care when fueling, and do not smoke.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Check for boating and weather advisories. Storms and high winds can come up quickly, creating dangerous conditions. Head for a shelter at the first sign of bad weather. If you're caught in rough water, stay low in the boat and head into the waves. Wear your PFD.
  • Avoid standing in your boat. If you must, stand in the center of the boat and hold onto the gunnels on both sides.
  • Know your boat's capacity. Do not overload.
  • Do not boat or ski through swimming areas.
  • Observe all markers and buoys, especially the no-wake zones around marinas and congested areas.
  • Use marked navigation channels whenever possible. Stay alert at all times. Floating logs on the surface and neutrally-buoyant logs just below the surface can drift into channels. Do not tie off to channel markers.
  • Use extreme caution when navigating outside of marked channels.
  • The same underwater stumps and rocks that provide habitat for the lake's abundant marine life pose a hazard to the unfamiliar boater.
  • When pulling a skier, allow a safe distance from shore. Always have a second person aboard to watch the skier.
  • Sailboats under sail generally have right of way over powerboats.
  • When overtaking a boat, the boat being overtaken has right-of-way and must maintain course and speed. Generally, you should pass the boat on its port side. Take care to slow down while passing small boats to minimize your wake.
  • When two boats are heading directly towards each other, each should alter course to the right and pass portside to portside.
  • When two boats are crossing, the boat to the right has the right of way and should maintain course and speed, the other boat should alter course to the right so the vessels pass port to port. Be Courteous.
  • There's plenty of room on the Santee Cooper Lakes for everyone to enjoy them. Fishermen should shy away from anchoring in open channels. Water-skiers should not spray fishermen and other boats.
  • Don't swim if you've been drinking alcohol. As with boating, alcohol and swimming don't mix.
  • If you don't know how to swim, wear a PFD. Learn to swim. The Red Cross and several other agencies offer swimming lessons.
  • Never swim alone, no matter how experienced you are.
  • Swim only in designated areas. When outside of these areas, stay close to shore and keep an eye out for boats and skiers.
  • Do not dive. Changing water levels make it hard to judge lake depths even in areas you know, and you could strike objects hidden beneath the water.