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Safety takes center stage during boating season

With all in the family, aboard, area residents are enjoying a beautiful day and surroundings, while boating on Watauga Lake last weekend. Local agencies are urging all boaters to be safety conscious along with wearing life jackets as well as following the current safety guidelines that also includes some COVID-19 related measures.  Photo by Joey Icenhour.

By Tamas Mondovics

Memorial Day weekend is viewed as the unofficial kickoff to the summer boating season. National Safe Boating Week is held annually prior to Memorial Day weekend, which falls on May 23-25 and promises to be one of the warmest and lake-friendly days yet this season. To ensure that spending time on the water will be a positive experience for all, boating partners across the United States and Canada have teamed up to promote safe boating practices, including the wear of life jackets for National Safe Boating Week and throughout the 2020 summer boating season.

Officially, the 2020 National Safe Boating Week is May 16-22, and with boaters heading out in full force to enjoy the region’s amenities, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will also take part to promote the wear of life jackets. According to TWRA officials, Tennessee offers boating enthusiasts an abundance of opportunities to enjoy the resources across the state. The goal of National Safe Boating Week is to educate the public about the importance of safe boating practices and wearing life jackets.

“The single most important action one can take to prevent drowning while boating is to wear a life jacket,” said Betsy Woods, TWRA Boating Education Coordinator. “They are called life-saving devices because they really can save lives.”

And it is for a good reason. TWRA officers responded to a call just last month of a missing angler on Center Hill Lake. According to officers, Quinn Hogan, a 36-year-old Putnam County resident, was reported missing by a friend. Three TWRA boats and two Dekalb County rescue boats searched and found the bass fishing boat of the missing angler, which was adrift in a cove near to the Cookeville Boat Dock.

TWRA officers used GPS forensic tracking to determine the area the boat went adrift. The TWRA Remote Operated Vehicle was deployed and quickly located Hogan’s body in eight feet of water, despite heavy rains in the area. Hogan’s body was recovered near the area the boat was found.

Officers said that Hogan was wearing a self-inflating personal floatation device, but the device was not inflated. The incident remains under investigation, but it emphasizes the need to be prepared. An additional element of this following direction is to protect oneself and others and slow the spread of Covid-19.

While some restrictions are lifted, following some basic health guidelines will also serve to protect and ensure a great experience on Tennessee’s waterways. Some guidelines include only boating with those in one’s immediate household. Maintaining distance at fuel and community docks are also encouraged.

When fueling, washing hands is a good habit. If soap and water are not readily available, boaters may use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Do not touch the eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Boaters are asked to maintain a social distance of 6 to 10 feet.

Friday, May 15, was Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day. Boaters can share a photo wearing a life jacket at work (or home) on social media along with the hashtag #lifejacket2work and tagging @boatingcampaign (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram). Photos
can also be emailed to [email protected] Winners will be chosen randomly throughout the day to receive boating prizes from the Safe Boating Campaign, such as T-shirts, dry bags, first aid kits, stickers, and more.