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Stopping in at some of the boat dealerships and boat supply sections of the big stores is getting to be a pretty common thing right about now. We’re not that far away from the Memorial Day weekend and that is usually the time when boat owners get their rigs out on the water for the first time each year.
Many boaters have their boats on the water already in northern Illinois with the cooling lakes being open and the Illinois River ready to go for the sauger fishing. It boating time again!
Picking up much needed supplies, getting the boat tuned up and replacing worn out flotation devices and outdated warning signal flares are all part of the program. Fuses have to be checked, maybe a navigation light bulb needs to be replaced, and a good cleaning of the interior of the boat are all must-do chores.
There’s a lot to get before taking the boat out for the first time of the year. Check everything and make sure that each and every item is in good working order. Start at the front of the boat and work your way back. Make a check list and go over everything to ensure everything is okay.
Before I take my boat out for the first time every spring, I’ll have it on my driveway, hook up a water hose to the lower unit, and start the motor. There’s nothing more frustrating (for you and other boaters in line at the boat ramps) than to get boat off the trailer and it won’t start.
Hopefully you put stabilizer in your gas last fall. I use it all the time, year round and never had a problem with bad gas.
Make sure your motor is running well before venturing out.
There are other issues too that we have to keep in mind and that’s being safe on the water.
When it comes to boating safety, there’s always a big push is for boaters to wear a personal flotation device (PFD). No matter what your age is and no matter how good a swimmer you may think that you are, wearing a PFD while the boat is in motion is a good habit to have.
Illinois law requires that youths under the age of 13 must wear a PFD while on any boat under twenty six feet in length. Youthful boat operators must be in possession of a boating safety certificate which they obtained by attending and successfully completing a boating safety class. This law applies to all from the age of twelve to eighteen. If you will be operating a personal water craft or jet ski, a PFD must be worn at all times regardless of age.
The Illinois DNR provides some good information on their website at http://www.boat-ed.com/illinois. You can also get information there about boating safety classes for both adults and young boat drivers.
There are a lot of rules out there that we must follow, but do we need laws to force us into using simple common sense when boating? I really don’t think so.
When we’re on the water, we should be totally aware of what is going on all around us. Be aware speed limits for the body of water that you will be boating in and any special regulations. Some smaller private lakes that allow water skiing during certain hours require that boat travel in certain directions, like pulling skiers in a clockwise direction on the lake.
Maps for lakes and rivers are available everywhere. Be aware of where you will be traveling on the water. Having a map chip in your depth finder that detail the depths of a lake is a valuable tool to have. Know the depths and pay attention. Look at the lake maps before venturing out in unfamiliar water and keep an eye on the depth finder too for shallow water.
I’ve heard of boats hitting reefs on Lake Erie and passenger’s flying head over heals into the shallow rocks because there was too much speed and the driver didn’t know where he was going. It could happen anywhere. Here closer to home, it could happen on some of our smaller lakes too be it on the Fox Chain, one of our rivers or even out cooling lakes.
Let’s have our boats ready before going on that first trip of the year. If something needs attending to and it’s over your head, take the boat to a nearby dealer. If we all can be boating wise and courteous, safe boating will just falls into place. Boating is fun and what a great way to spend the summer!