Fort Mill Times

Lake Wylie Marine Commission to kick off year promoting safety at Mid-Atlantic Boat Show

The Lake Wylie Marine Commission plans to use one of the region’s largest annual platforms to sell its plan for improving boater safety.

When the Mid-Atlantic Boat Show arrives in Charlotte Feb. 5-8 – promising more than 30 dealers, almost 90 exhibitors and waves of boating enthusiasts – the marine commission will also sell awareness. At the end of last year, the commission set goals for 2015 where they could do more.

“The answer was, why don’t we look at boater safety?” said Joe Stowe, executive director. “We really have only scratched the surface.”

The campaign doesn’t have a name, but it has a point person. New commissioner Blanche Bryant, wife of York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant, joined the group in the fall with a mission for public safety.

“The main thing is to get people to wear their life jackets,” Bryant said. “We have so many who don’t wear them.”

Bryant said nobody plans to be in boat wreck, but wearing a life jacket saves lives.

“It’s like seat belts,” Bryant said. “Seat belts are the law, but there are still people who don’t wear them ... But it’s proven over and over that if you’re in a wreck, having your seat belt on can make all the difference.”

The commission is considering ways to promote its campaign, including working out a time to gather law enforcement and others at T-Bones on the Lake for a group picture in life jackets to promote using them.

“That means babies, dogs, cats – whatever you can get a life jacket on – to get a picture of in a life jacket,” Stowe said.

They’re also considering a competition, compete with a trophy, among high schools to see who can have the most students photographed in life jackets.

Other safety efforts will include promoting safety classes and checking vessels to make sure they’re fit for the water. The commission also will have a billboard along I-85 a few weeks ahead of National Safe Boating Week, which begins May 16.

The surge in safety talk isn’t the result of any one incident or a trend toward unsafe boating, but prevention as more boaters hit the water with area growth. Stowe said past safety emphasis has made an impact, for example the number of boating tickets were down last summer.

The marine commission is one of many groups looking for an audience at the 43rd annual boat show, held at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Participants come from 10 states, as far as Florida, Ohio, Michigan and New York. And from close to home, including the Charlotte Power Squadron, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Velocity Powersports (Rock Hill), Cabela’s (Fort Mill) and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in Rock Hill.

But meeting boating business needs is the main attraction, with Lake Wylie represented by Harbortowne Marina, Dock Masters, Commodore Yacht Club, Carolina Show Ski Team, Waterjack Boat Lifts & Docks, Hall Marine Group (including Lake Wylie Marina), Boat Sales of Lake Wylie and Tega Cay Marina.

“We we will have the latest and greatest for 2015,” said Tony Allen at Lake Wylie Marina. “All of our manufacturers have great incentives to buy at the show.”

Boat sellers and industry businesses often report a significant chunk of their annual sales from the show.

“There's no better time to move up or if it’s the first boat to get the family together on the water,” Allen said.