Several July 4 safety tips from BoatU.S., the national recreational boating organization with more than 650,000 members:
• Plan safety into your boating trip. An online boating toolbox is available at boatus.com with helpful information on trip planning and preparation, boating equipment, emergency preparation, navigation and quizzes to test boating knowledge. The site also includes locations of online safe boating courses.
• Little guests need life jackets. Everyone wants to be on the boat this holiday weekend, but do you have the right-sized life jacket aboard for any visiting kids? Make sure to have a properly fitting life jacket on board for every passenger. If purchasing life jackets is not an option, try finding a local life jacket loaner program.
• Take your time to get home. July 4 is the one time of year many fair-weather boaters who may rarely navigate in the dark venture out after the sun goes down. The most reported type of boating accident is a collision with another vessel, so it's a good idea to keep your speed down, post an extra lookout and ensure all your navigation lights work. A spotlight is a must, and ensure all safety gear is readily available and life jackets are worn. Be extra vigilant about not running over anchor lines in crowded fireworks viewing areas, and don't take shortcuts in the dark.
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• Wear life jackets. Almost three-quarters of all fatal boating accident victims drown, and of those, 87 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Accidents can happen very quickly, sometimes leaving no time to don a life jacket.
• Don't overload your boat. Resist the urge to invite more friends or family to the fireworks show than what your boat was designed to carry. Heavily loaded small boats, and those with little freeboard such as bass boats, are more susceptible to swamping from weather or wake action associated with heavy July 4 boating traffic.
• It's a long day. A full day in the sun will increase alcohol's effects on the body, so it's better to wait until you're safely back at the dock or home before breaking out the libations. Also bring lots of water, a VHF radio and check the weather reports to avoid storms.
• Know how to get back in the boat. A fall overboard can turn into a life-threatening situation pretty quickly, especially for small boats without built-in boarding ladders.
• Never run the engine when swimmers are in the water. Raft-ups, or groups of boats tied together in a protected anchorage, is a great way to spend the holiday with fellow boating friends. But you should never run an engine, or a generator for that matter, with swimmers in the water near exhaust ports or props. Even though the boat's transmission may not be in gear, propellers can still rotate and odorless, colorless carbon monoxide can quickly overcome swimmers.
• Take a local boating safety class. Several options are the Charlotte or Catawba Power Squadrons, Lighthouse Marine Service, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. The following are scheduled at Lake Wylie:
• The Charlotte Power Squadron will hold the following classes: 6:30-9:30 p.m. July 8 and 10, and 6:30-8:30 p.m. July 11 at St. John's Episcopal Church, Carmel Road, Charlotte. This class is sanctioned by the Lake Wylie Marine Commission and also provides a discount on boat insurance and meets mandatory education requirements implemented in Virginia. Cost is $30 for the book, which can be shared. Call (704) 365-5508 or e-mail email@example.com.
• Lighthouse Marine Service Inc. offers the following safe boating school classes and events at Lake Wylie, with most classes taught by U.S. Coast Guard licensed captains: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 26, Aug. 16, Sept. 20 and Oct. 18 at Lake Wylie Public Library, 185 Blucher Circle, Lake Wylie. Cost is $49.95. For more information, call (704) 587-0325 or visit lmservice.org.