MANNING - Memorial Day marks the beginning of fun on Lake Marion, which also brings an increased presence of boaters, jet skis, water skiers, kayakers, swimmers and fishermen all vying for a place to have fun on the water.
This increase in the number of personal watercraft also brings along the potential for mishaps or accidents on the lake. Already this spring, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has seen the number of accidents on the lake rise, which included one fatality.
"We want everyone to have a good time, but we want boaters to be safe," SCDNR Capt. Robert McCullough said. "Please be aware of your surroundings, and always wear a life jacket. And please use good judgment when boating."
In an effort to aid owners, officers with SCDNR will conduct courtesy boat inspections during the Memorial Day weekend. From 10 a.m. to noon on Memorial Day, officers will conduct a checkpoint at Alex Harvin Landing, 9.5 miles south of Manning off S.C. 260, at what locals refer to as "Second Water."
The officers will conduct quick, thorough inspections to ensure that watercraft owners have the required safety equipment along with the proper boat and motor registration before launching their watercraft. At the checkpoints, officers will also check to make sure the proper life jackets are on board the watercraft.
Individuals who are not in compliance with safety regulations or registration requirements will not be ticketed during the complimentary inspections. These individuals will be given the chance to correct any problems before putting their watercrafts in the water.
SCDNR is also offering safety tips and reminders for individuals who may be on the water this weekend and during the summer.
There are several things that all watercraft owners need to do before ever launching their watercraft, including making sure to fill out a float plan, which lets people know where you will be launching your watercraft, where you will be going and what time you are expected back.
According to SCDNR, the United States Coast Guard has an app on its website that allows boaters to fill out a float plan and share it electronically.
All watercraft users also need to make sure that all of the Personal Flotation Devices are in serviceable condition and are the correct size for all the individuals on board the craft, especially children. All PFDs should be stamped with "U.S. Coast Guard Approved" and include the type of PFD that it is.
"It's critical that boaters don't travel in areas that they are not familiar with, especially at night," McCullough said. "And it's very important that all boaters wear life jackets. Life jackets can turn a potentially tragic accident into a funny story if worn appropriately."
Before launching, watercraft users should always double check their craft's fuel level and battery charge and when possible include an extra charged battery on board the craft.
Always make sure the watercraft's lights are in working condition on both the craft and the trailer and that you have a fire extinguisher accessible on the craft.
Another sage piece of advice from SCDNR - remember to put the plug in. While it may seem like a simple thing to remember, dozens if not hundreds of boaters fail to remember to insert the plug before launching.
Before launching, boaters also need to know the rules of the water, including the area's navigation and buoy system and what each of the various symbols and colors mean. Red markers designate the right side of a channel, while the green markers indicate the left side as boaters travel upstream or enter from the open sea. Also remember that all boaters approaching from the right have the right of way and should keep the course.
"We want everyone to have fun on the lake," McCullough added. "Knowing where you are and making sure that your equipment is in proper working condition are the keys to safe fun on the lake."
For more information on boating safety, log onto www.dnr.sc.gov. To report boating violations, including reckless operation or an intoxicated boat operator, call the SCDNR toll free 24-hour hotline at 1-800-922-5431.
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