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The Memorial Day weekend marking the unofficial beginning to Iowa’s boating season is quickly approaching and boaters across the state are busy preparing their watercraft for the long holiday weekend.
Susan Stocker, boating law administrator and education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said Memorial Day weekend is often the first time on the water for many boaters and after a winter away, they should take time to review Iowa boating laws and plan to have patience at the ramp and on the water.
“Regardless of the forecast, it will be busy on the water,” she said.
One way boaters can stay on the water is by inspecting their vessels prior to heading to the lake.
“There are a few simple things boaters can do to have a safe weekend on the water and topping that list is to have a designated boat operator who abstains from alcohol,” she said. “Operators will also need to watch their speed and be on the lookout for others.”
She said boaters should make sure lifejackets are in good condition and the right size for each person onboard. Check the fire extinguisher, boat and trailer lights, whistle, and throwable floatation.
Boaters are reminded about the requirement that drain plugs and other water draining devices must be removed and/or remain open during transport to avoid spreading invasive species. Anglers leaving with fish are recommended to put them on ice, whether in a cooler, a bucket or a live well (plug must still be removed and/or opened).
Operators can brush up on rules and regulations, by taking the DNR boating safety course. Iowa law requires any person 12-17 years old, who will operate a motorboat over ten horsepower or a personal watercraft, to successfully complete the education program. It is available online at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Boating/Boater-Education. Stocker reminds everyone on board that they need a properly fitted lifejacket. Safety officials also urge you to wear it.
"It is similar to seat belts on the road. You won't have time to grab it and put it on, when facing an emergency situation,” she said.
Iowa has more than 205,000 registered boats.
Boating safety Tips
· Alcohol and boating don’t mix. Wind, sun, glare and heat can enhance the effects of alcohol hindering the operator’s ability to make decisions.
· Check for open ramps or water hazards before heading out.
· Before leaving the house, check the trailer lights, wheel bearings and the hitch.
· Make sure there is a current fire extinguisher and horn/whistle, a wearable life jacket for everyone and a USCG approved throwable device onboard.
· File a float plan with a friend, including your destination, expected time of return and type of boat.
· Wear your lifejacket - it floats, you don’t.
· Inflatable lifejackets are light weight, comfortable and USCG approved. Wear it.
· Take a boater education course. It has valuable information and many insurance companies will offer a discount on boat insurance.
· Top two safety violations in Iowa are having inadequate life jackets and operating too fast and too close to other vessels.