Awareness on the water can save a life, prevent a tragedy

Light blue circle with black text and wavy white line - National boating safety week logoDo you think you don’t need reminders about the safe operation of your boat this year? Think again.

From avoiding a boating accident to preventing a tragic drowning, experts suggest some easy ways to make this a safe boating season on Lake Lanier.

As a reminder, the National Safe Boating Council has declared May 20-26 as National Safe Boating Week.

“Everyone can use a refresher about their boating and marine recreational skills,” said Ken Odum, commander of America’s Boating Club Atlanta, formerly known as the US Sail and Power Squadron of Atlanta, based on Lake Lanier. “No matter how proficient you are, you may have new people on your boat, children or others who aren’t as skilled as you are. It never hurts to have a reminder for yourself and those you’re responsible for when you’re on your boat.”

Odum suggests that skippers take a couple of minutes to show people where the life jackets are stored and how to locate the fire extinguisher before heading out on the lake, particularly if you have new people on board.

“This one step can save crucial time if something happens on the boat,” he said. “It’s best to be prepared and never need a safety time than to lose time in an emergency. And make sure you have another adult who can operate your boat if something should happen to you as the driver,” he said.

Free service

Each year, Lanier’s boating clubs – America’s Boating Club Atlanta and the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 29 – offer free vessel safety checks to help boaters be sure they have the correct equipment on board. Both groups offer special dates for these checks, announcing them on their websites. They set up programs with area marinas or come to a boat slip or dock upon request.

“The process takes about 45 minutes, and it’s the best 45 minutes you’ll spend in the boating season,” Odum said. “It’s a time to ask questions about updates to Georgia Boating Laws or for advice about boating.”

The skipper/owner is given a sticker for the boat that demonstrates they are properly equipped.

“When the DNR or the Corps of Engineers is patrolling this summer, they will see that you’ve been checked and this assures them that you are in compliance,” he said. “It’s totally free and can save you time on the water.”

Boating instructor speaking before a class.

America’s Boating Club Atlanta member Dave Fuller gives a safety talk to refresh boaters.

Boating 101: required for those born after January 1, 1998

Nine years ago, the Georgia General Assembly passed a law requiring anyone born after January 1, 1998, and operating a motorized vessel to pass a safe boating course and receive a Georgia Boat Education Card.

Low-cost basic safe boating classes are offered on Lake Lanier by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary/Flotilla 29 and America’s Boating Club Atlanta, formerly known as the US Sail and Power Squadron of Atlanta.

The courses cover the Rules of the Road, docking, how to deal with sudden weather changes, anchoring, watersports safety, safe fueling and required safety equipment.

“A boating course, even if you’re an experienced boater, can refresh your knowledge, and it may even help you save money on your boating insurance,” Odum said. Many companies honor a completion certificate when providing boating insurance.

“Additionally, we have a number of new boat owners and families come to take our courses,” he said. “And for people born after January 1, 1998, Georgia law requires them to have completed a boater education course before operating a motorized vessel.”

For more info, visit or US Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 2-9,

Just for fun: Test your safety knowledge.

Here’s a short basic quiz to test your boating knowledge. Created by Discover Boating, it can give you a quick understanding of your boating proficiency.

Check out this link to measure your boating knowledge:

Orange life jacket graphic and words "wear it" in blue.

What’s on your boat? 

Do you have these items easily accessible on your boat if your boat is at least 16 feet long? Depending on the length of your boat, you may need additional safety equipment.

  • Fire extinguishers – no more than 12 years old and green gauge
  • Life preservers for each person aboard
  • Your current boat registration and registration decals
  • A Type IV throwable flotation
  • A horn, whistle or bell
  • Navigation lights
  • A communications device, either a cellphone or a VHF radio

Boats under 26 feet have an engine cutoff switch and the lanyard must be worn by the operator when underway the same as a PWC.

Photo: by Pamela A. Keene