By Amber Dodds
LIMA — Been boating for years and think you know it all?
Brett Trump, area supervisor of the Wapakoneta Field Office, said everyone who comes out of one of his boating safety classes has at least one a-ha moment.
“It is guaranteed you’re going to learn something,” he said.
While a boating safety class is only required if you are operating a boat with a 10 horsepower engine or above and were born after Jan. 1, 1982, it is still highly recommended that you take one.
Grand Lake St. Marys is not an option this summer because of its algae problem, but Indian Lake is still available to boaters — and all area waterways will likely be busy with those eager to squeeze out a bit more summer. Before you take your boat out on the water though, “be sure to have all required safety equipment mandated by state law,” Trump said. Rules and regulations are different in every state, as well as what is required for each size of boat.
If the boat is 14 feet or more, make sure that the boat is registered and titled. Like your own car, you may be asked for proof of registration.
You should always be prepared for an emergency. Be sure to stow a fire extinguisher, life preservers or rings you can throw, flares and a first aid kit.
“Cell phones can have dead spots on the lake,” said Mary Clem, vice commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. She suggests you have a marine band radio which would give you a way to get a hold of someone at the station.
An orange distress flag can be put up in the day hours and flares should be used at night. You should also have sound signal devices, “horns, a whistle, something along those lines,” Trump said.
Having the right type of anchor or line that fits your boat is important also. Your line should be seven times the depth of the water, “so if the water is 10 feet deep, you should have 70 feet of line,” Clem said.
It is often believed that the only time an anchor is used is when you want to stop the boat to fish or to just keep the boat at a standstill for a while, but its most important use is to keep you from coming to shore too fast. The anchor can prevent the boat from hitting rocks or coming up on shore at a high speed.
If you want to go boating at night, make sure your navigation lights (red and green in front, and an all-around white light in back) are working properly.
“If you’re not used to boating at night, it can be more challenging,” Trump said. There are glares on the water and lights moving in different directions. It’s just something that gets easier the more you do it, he said.
Sometimes people fall out of boats, whether it’s due to carelessness or simple clumsiness.
“If you’re wearing a lifejacket, you’re going to float,” Trump said. Common sense, we know, but still people do not always listen to that simple rule, “wear your life jacket.” If the boat is moving, slow down and turn around to pick the person up. You can use a square cushion or a throw ring.
“‘Reach and throw but never go,’ is what we teach,” Clem said. Jumping in after a person puts both people at risk of drowning or in danger’s way of the propellers.
Weather is another factor in good boating safety. In our area, storms often come in from the west, Trump said. “If you see dark clouds from the west heading your way, don’t wait until the last minute.”
Be careful of hypothermia in the cold, and dehydration in the heat also, Clem said. You should wear appropriate clothing for the weather and have plenty of water to drink.
If you’re planning to bring your children along, anyone younger than age 10 is required to wear a lifejacket. But children age 12 or older are allowed to operate the boat if they’ve taken a boating safety class and are supervised by an adult.
Boating safety classes in the area are offered through the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Division of Watercraft, and the U.S. Power Squadron.