Local Conservation Officer offers advice for safe boating this holiday

With the summer in full swing and the waters of Mecklenburg County coming to life, boaters are advised to be prepared before entering the water and use caution while operating any water vessels.
According to Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Conservation Police Officer Matthew Sandy, one of the first things anyone intending on operating a boat on the water this summer should do is ensure they have taken a boating safety course.
It is required in the state of Virginia for anyone operating a personal water craft or a motorboat with an 10-horsepower engine or greater to take a boating safety course and have proof of taking the course with them while on the water.
“If you are going to be on a boat, take it,” Sandy said.
Sandy encourages all boaters even those in states that do not require a boating safety course to take it anyway because it is informative and can even offer experienced boaters new information they may not have known.
Once completing the course and voyaging out onto the water to celebrate a holiday or just enjoy a summer day, boaters also need to be mindful of operating a boat while consuming alcohol.
Sandy strongly encourages anyone planning on consuming alcohol while out on the water to designate a sober driver, just like in a vehicle.
Already this year, Sandy said three arrests have been made for boaters Operating Under the Influence.
Sandy explained that alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths and with only one fatality on Buggs Island Lake in Virginia so far this year he hopes alcohol or other preventable safety issues will not cause any more.
While alcohol consumption is a major factor in boater safety there are many other safety regulations that boaters should be aware of.
Another way to stay safe while enjoying the area’s waterways, Sandy said is to inspect all safety equipment and boat lights before entering the water.
All occupants of any vessel on the water are required to have a life jacket, if not on their body then with them on the boat, paddle board, kayak, etc. For those operating a personal watercraft such as a jet ski, Sea Doos or Wave Runners the life jacket must be on them at all times.
Along with ensuring all safety devices and the lights on your boat are functional, Sandy would also like to remind all boaters that dock lights are not to be on while the boat is moving.
Sandy explained that having the dock lights on while underway is a safety issue because they “reflect off of the water and into other boaters eyes and it prevents the navigational lights from being seen.”
Another issue, Sandy said he hears too often is boaters going above no wake speed when within 50 feet of a dock or people in the water.
No wake speed is defined as the operation of a motorboat at the slowest speed possible while remaining at a speed to maintain headway.
Sandy also encourages boaters who are ever unsure of what to do in certain situations on the water to “slow down and back off that way you can figure it out.”
“We want people to enjoy their time on the water while staying safe and following the law,” Sandy said.
While boaters are hitting the water this summer, Sandy encourages everyone to be aware of the law and he advises anyone that is unsure of boating safety regulations to ask a conservation officer.
To speak to a conservation officer about boating related questions call the Region 2 VDGIF office at (434) 525-7522 or to report any boater violations that are witnessed while on the water call the VDGIF crime line at 1-800-237-5712.
Also, for more information on boating safety or to locate a boating safety course in the area visit www.dgif.virginia.gov and click on the boating tab.