This weekend kicks off National Safe Boating Week, May 18-24, a time to remind ourselves of boating safety before we enter the water.
First, and foremost, every person aboard should wear a properly rated and fitted life preserver.
Make sure you read the rating to determine if it's intended for a child or adult, and pay particular attention to the weight rating. Also check to see the relative distance from land for which the preserver is rated. If it's only good for 100 feet from shore, it would be best not to wear it to the middle of a lake 10 miles wide and 20 miles long.
And make sure it's fitted and adjusted properly. Just about the time you think you won't need it, you will. So it's best to make sure it fits right before you leave the shoreline.
If alcohol and driving don't mix, alcohol and boating don't either. Iowa has laws against operating a motorized or sail-powered watercraft while intoxicated - and they're enforced. Sure, if you're drinking and boating you won't go in the ditch - but you could drown.
Make sure your watercraft is in good operating condition. And if you're going to be far from shore or on an extended trip, make sure you have extra fuel. And if your motor should conk out on you, make sure you have a couple paddles to get you from point A to point B.
Know the payload capacity of your boat. If it can handle 800 pounds, don't put Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Jenny, Mom and Dad, add the kids and the St. Bernard aboard.
Watch your speed. This should be self-explanatory.
Yield to other craft. The priorities are:
n Not under command - a vessel which, for whatever reason, cannot control where it goes.
n Restricted in ability to maneuver - a vessel which, because of the tasks it is doing, cannot change direction or speed easily, or at all.
n Constrained by draft - a vessel which must stay away from shallower water to avoid running aground.
n Vessel which is fishing or trawling (but not trolling).
n Sailboat under sail or a boat being paddled or rowed - though as soon as the sailboat uses an engine for power it must follow the same rules as a power boat, whether or not it has sails up.
To simplify, if you have a motor and the other person has only a sail, you need to yield to the person with the sail.
Also keep a safe distance from swimming beaches and avoid swamping canoes and kayaks in your wake.
So remember. Safe boating is happy boating.