By Tim Douglass, Publisher of the Pope County Tribune
The July 4th holiday weekend is one of historically busy boat traffic on Minnesota’s waters. Practice safety in all that you do and watch out for others who may not be watching for you.
That’s good advice from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This weekend, with Heritage Days in Starbuck and then the Fourth of July holiday on Monday, Lake Minnewaska and other area lakes will likely be very busy.
Lake Minnewaska is large enough to handle a lot of boat traffic, but boaters need to practice good safety habits.
Everyone on the boat should wear their life jacket. Wearing a life jacket is the best way to ensure that an unexpected fall into the water doesn’t turn tragic.
There was an incident just last weekend (front page) where a man was fishing and his main motor lost power. It was windy and the lake had some large waves on the Glenwood side and his boat was inundated with water as he tried to use his trolling motor to get back to the landing. He was wearing a life jacket so he was safe just hanging on to the submerged boat as he waited for help. If he hadn’t been wearing his life jacket, the outcome may have been more tragic.
Also, alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. Common boating stressors — sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion — intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications.
This weekend, there will be statewide effort to crack down on boating while impaired.
In recent years, about half of the boating related-fatalities in Minnesota have involved alcohol. Boating under the influence is a problem, and one the DNR and its local, county, state and federal law enforcement partners will target on Minnesota lakes on July 2-4 during “Operation Dry Water,” a national campaign aimed at deterring boating under the influence of drugs and alcohol. During this time, public safety agencies across the state will increase patrols for people operating boats while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Officials will discuss current statewide efforts to crack down on boating while intoxicated.
The goal of “Operation Dry Water” is to reduce the number of BWI-related boating accidents and fatalities. Nearly half of the deadly boating accidents in Minnesota involve alcohol. (See page 5A for a news release from the DNR on law enforcement crack down on the water this weekend.)
And, if you plan to be on the lake after sunset, make sure you have working lights. You need a red/green light in the bow and a white light in the stern. The colors help other boaters know what direction your boat is moving.
Distracted boating is a rising safety issue as well, according to the DNR. Just as distracted driving is a concern on our roads, distracted boating can lead to accidents and fatalities on the water.
So there you have it. Fishing, water skiing, cruising in a pontoon are all great fun, but safety should always be a top priority. That way a fun, on-the-water activity won’t turn into a tragedy for anyone in this area.