Row Your Boat Safely

In my family, we take boat safety very seriously. This big lake attracts a lot of tourists, and there are those who have no business being out on the water. Some of them really have no idea what they’re doing, others are intoxicated, and some are a combination of reckless and plain old stupid. It’s best if you know water and boat safety before you head out onto the lake. These tips come from my observations and personal opinions, with a few legal things thrown in:

I suggest you know how to swim before you attempt boating. Now, that might not help you if the dam’s gates are open and the water’s really moving, but it at least gives you a fighting chance. And even if you do know how to swim, life jackets are a good idea (and potentially required by law, to have even if not to be physically worn). Get the ones that are approved by the Coast Guard. It’ll say so somewhere on the label.

Pay attention. This is a pretty broad one, so I’ll break it down a bit. Pay attention to the condition of your boat and the gear you are required to have. If something is wearing out or needs to be fixed, get it handled correctly before you launch your vessel into the water. Also pay attention to the weather. Do you really want to be out in the middle of a huge lake in a metal fishing boat or holding a metal pole when it starts storming? Probably not if you want to live to see the next day. Same thing goes for the water levels on the lake – if they have to open floodgates, you’re going to need to know that.

Similar to owning a car, you may be required to register your vessel. Also just like driving a car, there are laws you need to follow. You have to be a certain age and have valid ID. There’s right-of-way procedures that you need to know, and you won’t have painted lanes or signal lights to help you along. There are also speed limits you need to be aware of. In Grand Lake, the speed limit goes down at night, and many water sports are prohibited after dark. If you’re diving, you need to mark your dive site with flags. If you are nearby and see said flags, you need to keep a safe distance away — at least 150 feet. You also need to know what No Wake zones are.

Another thing you need to be careful of is cleaning your boat. Even if you clean it in your driveway, if it’s going back in the water at some point – so will the chemicals you use to clean it. Use something that is phosphate free and biodegradable. Otherwise you run the risk of damaging the lake’s ecosystem or even making people who swim in the lake sick. That goes for anything else you plan on putting in the water, too: inner tubes, jet skis, whatever.

To get into all the rules and regulations of Grand Lake would take a long time, and somebody’s already done it for me. You can read them all here. It doesn’t have my wit and charm, but it does go into a lot more detail. Have fun and be safe out there.