Keeping your head above water while boating this summer - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Keeping your head above water while boating this summer

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- The unofficial start of summer is more than a week away.  But many are looking forward to the start of boating season this Saturday.

However, there could be some unseen dangers. And those obstacles, along with reckless boaters, could put a stop to your summer fun if you're not careful.

TWRA officers will be out on area lakes and rivers to help keep things under control and help where needed.

With school out, even the most casual boater -- and friends of people with a boat -- will crowd the lakes and forget the most obvious thing.

"Sometimes you don't have to wear a life jacket but it's always a good idea," said TWRA's Matt Majors. In fact, it's a requirement for anyone 12 years of age or younger.

Scott Swilley, father of a young girl, insists on it. "Dealing with my eight year old, when she's out on the top of the boat she has a life jacket on."

In Tennessee, 2011 saw fewer injuries on the water but more deaths, a trend officers want to put in reverse. In addition, five of last year's 24 fatalities were alcohol related.

"They'll have a large number of people doing saturation patrols and targeting specific problem areas that we may have had trouble with in the past," explained Majors

Majors notes that besides backing off on the booze and wearing a life jacket, there are other things to keep in mind like debris such as branches and logs.

"Sometimes it's there just below the waterline," he warns, which can cause damage or an accident. So every boat is required to have a lookout on board.

And since the lack of rain has lowered the waters a bit, knowing where to identify the navigational channels is key. "Some of these areas are marked very well, others are not marked very well," Majors said. "So make sure and pay attention to what those navigational buoys mean."

In order not to make waves and keep your head above water this summer, there's a simple message. "Make sure you go out and have a good time. We want you to do that. But keep your common sense with you when you go," said Majors

And also be aware that there's a fine of up to $2,500 for boating under the influence, along with loss of boating privileges for up to a year.

For more information and details on National Safe Boating Week, visit http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/marine/safeboating/ .

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