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Safe boating a major concern for lake patrollers

With the temperature rising, the sun shinning and the water glistening, many people are frolicking at the lake.
Boating and riding jet skis are a few of the activities that are popular.
Practicing boating safety is always a big concern once people get out on the water, said Darrell Hutchens with the Lincoln County Lake Patrol.
The biggest mistake Hutchens sees is people not wearing or having a lifejacket on board.
“It is my pet peeve when I see people without lifejackets,” he said. “Drownings would not happen if people wore their lifejackets.”
Hutchens said there were three drownings in Lincoln County last summer, and none of those people were wearing life jackets.
There needs to be a lifejacket on board for each person. However, on a jet ski, the lifejacket must be worn.
Also for boating and jetskiing, Hutchens said he does not need a reason to pull someone over unlike on land.
He can stop a boater or a jet ski simply just to do a safety check.
So what does one need to pass the safety check?
The check is fairly straightforward.
Boaters need lifejackets on board, boater registration, a horn or some sort of sound device and a fire extinguisher.
If the boat is over 16 feet long, a lifejacket used to throw in case of emergency is also needed.
When it comes to alcohol, the legal limit is .08, and Hutchens said this has always been a big problem.
“People seem to get out on the lake and don’t realize how much they have drank,” he said.
For the jet ski, the lifejacket must be worn, as well as the wrist attachment in case of the need for emergency shut-off. A fire extinguisher and registration also must be stored in the jet ski.
Hutchens also cautions people to watch their speed on boats and jetskis.
Problems with people slowing down in smaller coves is a concern.
“People tend to get a little reckless,” he said.
Any cove that is 300 feet across or smaller is a no wake cove, meaning people have to slow down.
“People don’t realize the property damage it can cause by folks not respecting it,” said sheriff’s Lt. Howard Eason, district supervisor for the eastern part of the county.
Hutchens said docks can get torn up by people not slowing down and boats can also get damaged.
Hutchens said no boat or jet ski that he pulls over has a perfect safety check.
“Nine out of 10 boats there is something wrong,” he said. “But they need to have the majority of the safety items.”
Another problem Hutchens is seeing is people beaching up on islands.
He cautions people to be aware of fires and make sure they stay under control. If camping, he suggests having a cell phone.
“If I see people on an island I usually stop and get their names,” Hutchens said. “Anything could happen on an island and they could be stuck there.”
Hutchens also reminds boaters how to be safe on the access areas.
“The main thing to remember is no alcohol and not to block the docks,” Hutchens said. by Amy Wadsworth

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