Boating Tips For Staying Safe On The Santee Cooper Lakes
The weather is warming up and more boats are hitting the water for the season. Summer brings new life to the Santee Cooper Lakes with locals and vacationers alike jetting out for a day of fishing, swimming and sunbathing. Lakes Marion and Moultrie are one of South Carolina’s greatest recreational resources, bringing activity to five counties: Berkeley, Calhoun, Clarendon, Orangeburg and Sumter.
With an increased number of people on the lakes, the summer season is the most important time to practice boating safety to protect yourself and others while you’re enjoying the beautiful South Carolina waters. We’ve broken down four important places to apply these important boating tips.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
- Be prepared. Follow a pre-departure checklist to make sure everything is ready for your trip. This includes making sure your boat is in good operating condition and confirming you have necessary equipment like life jackets, fuel and ties before you leave the dock.
- Understand your boat. Take time to know the details about the boat you’re on. Understand your boat’s capacity so you don’t overload it. Know where emergency equipment and controls are located and learn how to use them.
- Check the weather forecast. Pay special attention to weather advisories as dangerous conditions can happen quickly. It’s important not to underestimate a chance of bad weather so you don’t get caught in rough water or a lightning storm.
- Be cautious when fueling. Take care not to spill gas, use approved containers if storing gas, and don’t smoke near fuel as it’s a fire hazard.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
- Observe all markers and buoys. Shallow waters and no-wake zones - especially around marinas and congested areas - are marked for your and others’ safety and to help avoid causing damage to your boat.
- Understand boating traffic patterns. Knowing how to maneuver and knowing what to expect from others around you is key to avoiding accidents.
- Stay alert. Logs or other objects can easily float into your path above or below the surface. People and other boats can come into view quickly. Pay attention to avoid hazards that could cause harm to yourself or others.
- Use marked navigation channels whenever possible. Use extreme caution when navigating outside of marked channels.
- When pulling a skier, allow a safe distance from shore. Always have a second person aboard to watch the skier.
- Use common sense. Always maintain control of the boat and keep it at a safe speed.
- Avoid alcohol. Driving a boat while intoxicated is illegal. Alcohol contributes to nearly half of boating accidents.
IN LAKE TRAFFIC
- 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.
- 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.
IN THE WATER
- Never swim alone. No matter how experienced you are, you should always swim with a partner.
- Wear a life jacket if you don’t know how to swim. It's estimated that 90% of boating fatalities could have been avoided by wearing a personal floatation device.
- Swim only in designated areas. When you’re 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 hit objects hidden beneath the water.
- Be cautious around the propeller. Avoid entering or exiting the boat from the water while the engine is on or idling.
For more information and our full list of boater safety tips, head to santeecooper.com. We’re so glad to see you back out on the water this year! Stay safe!