From trampolines to no wake zones, several changes await boaters as Memorial Day unofficially launches another season.
Duke Energy, the company that manages Lake Wylie, last summer announced large, fixed inflatables are no longer allowed on the water.
“The use of large inflatable recreation equipment such as trampolines, slides and diving boards is prohibited on Catawba-Wateree,” said Jennifer Jabon, company spokeswoman. “These large inflatables can block navigational access and raise aesthetic objections.”
Smaller items like towables for three people or fewer, ski tubes, inner tubes and items not permanently set in place, are allowed.
Camp Thunderbird has several large, fixed inflatables it sets out each year.
“Camp Thunderbird has a different classification under the shoreline management plan, so the recreation equipment was allowed to remain,” Jabon said.
Other changes on the water include no wake zones.
North Carolina officials approved the two no wake zones in March on either side of Sadler Island. The Lake Wylie Marine Commission worked with law enforcement for more than a year to improve traffic flow with power boats and paddlers, who rent from Tailrace Marina and the U.S. National Whitewater Center.
Sgt. Brent Mabry with the York County Sheriff’s Office said the no wake zone at Nivens Creek has been revised since last season, too.
“The no wake zone now extends all the way across Nivens Creek in front of the landing area, not just at the actual landing as in the past,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Office added a new boat to its fleet this year, one of several improvements from the law enforcement agencies representing both states and three counties surrounding the lake. One of the five U.S. Coast Guard trips to Lake Wylie – where officers will focus on impaired boating, vessel registration and life jacket safety – is set for the holiday weekend.
“On Memorial Day weekend, as on any other day, we stress safe boating practices,” Mabry said. “Always wear a proper fitting and serviceable life jacket and keep alcohol consumption to a minimum, or preferably none at all.”
According to U.S. Coast Guard’s 2014 Recreational Boating Statistics released May 13, there were 610 boating fatalities last year, the second-lowest number of yearly boating fatalities on record. The publication states alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, behind 21 percent of the deaths. Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and alcohol use ranked as the top five contributing factors in accidents.
The statistics show 78 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned; of those drowning victims, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Where boating instruction was known, 77 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instructions. The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft and cabin motorboats. The vessel types with the highest number of fatalities were open motorboats, canoes and kayaks.
Officers give the same safety tips they do each year, including using life jackets and knowing rules for both states on the lake. Key items are listed under the regulations tab at lakewyliemarinecommission.com.
“Lake Wylie can potentially be patrolled by seven different law enforcement agencies, which include three from South Carolina, three from North Carolina and the U.S. Coast Guard, which means a lot of watchful eyes will be on the water for the holiday weekend,” Mabry said. “We encourage everyone to come out and enjoy the lake safely and return home safely.”
John Marks • 803-831-8166