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Springtime turns out boaters

LAKE NORMAN – With spring fever in the air, many boaters are setting sail on Lake Norman.
That means that boating season is almost here.
Before hitting the lake, make sure to be prepared and know the boating rules.
Although boating season does not officially start until Memorial Day, Lincoln County Lake Patrol Officer Darrell Hutchens said he has already starting patrolling the lake.
“We have had a lot of nice days already,” Hutchens said. “It’s been pretty busy.”
Hutchens said he started patrolling the lake the last week in March and expects to do it until either the middle of October or the first of November.
Each year the lake gets busier and busier, he said.
The biggest problems he sees on the lake are “no wake” violations and BWIs, boating while under the influence.
“I get more calls on no wake violations than anything else,” he said. “A lot of boaters go back in coves and cruise around.”
North Carolina state law requires a no wake speed when a boat is within 50 yards of docks or other structures.
Drinking on the lake is also a problem, especially when it comes to parties on the lake.
If you plan to drink on the lake, be careful, Hutchens warns.
“The legal limit is .08 but even after a few drinks people’s judgment gets impaired so be careful of that,” he said. “Even if you are under that .08, you can still be a hazard.”
Hutchens suggests having a designated driver on the boat at all times.
More enforcement will also be geared toward boaters who camp on islands.
“This problem has always been out there,” Hutchens said. “We haven’t really done anything if they are not causing problems, but due to a number of calls from last year, we might be more strict this year.”
This jurisdictional issue is something the lake patrol is working on with Duke Power.
When boating at night, Hutchens said it is important to make sure all lights on one’s boat are functioning.
“At night other boats sneak up on you too, so slow down,” he said.
Another tip before heading out is to know the depths of the water.
“There are a lot of big rocks under the water,” Hutchens said. “A lot of people stay close to the lands but they should stay in the main channels, especially when the water is down.”
Boating season runs Memorial Day to Labor Day.
With Lake Norman getting busier and busier each season, the best thing to remember is to be alert.
“The boats are getting bigger and every year there seems to be a lot more people,” Hutchens said.
Before taking the boat out on the lake, look over everything carefully.

Tips to remember include:
· Making sure the boat fire extinguisher is charged
· Making sure each passenger has a life jacket
· If the boat is 16 feet or longer, have a throw cushion on board
· Keep hydrated with plenty of water
· Be courteous about no wake laws by Amy Wadsworth

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