Boat Safe, Be Happy

Boat Safe, Be Happy

PRATT – Finally! Summer is here and the boating season officially kicks off over the Memorial Day weekend. Kansas reservoirs will be busy with anglers, sailors, skiers, and just plain ole cruisers this weekend and for the next three months. Being on the water is a fun and relaxing way to enjoy the warm weather but boaters must adhere to basic safe boating practices to ensure everyone returns to the boat ramp safe and sound.

The first rule is to wear a life jacket. Kansas law requires all youth 12 and younger to wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets when on a boat. While boaters 13 and older are not required to wear life jackets on the water, a serviceable life jacket must be readily accessible for each person on board. U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that 85 percent of those who drowned in boating accidents last year were not wearing life jackets.

Simply wearing a life jacket can save your life, and today’s life jackets are more comfortable, cooler and lighter than the bulky orange jackets most boaters are familiar with. Innovative options, such as inflatables, allow for mobility and flexibility during boating activities such as fishing, paddling or hunting.

The second rule is to drink moderately, or better yet, avoid alcohol altogether while boating. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. It is legal to drink while boating, but it is not legal to operate a boat with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater. And there’s a difference between drinking on land and drinking in a boat. Sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion – "stressors" common to the boating environment – intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs, and some medications. Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) officers will be patrolling waters this weekend looking for unsafe boaters and administering boating under the influence checks.

“There are so many easy steps to ensure boating this weekend – and the rest of the summer – is done in a safe and enjoyable way,” said Chelsea Hofmeier, Boating Education coordinator for KDWPT. "Wear your life jacket, leave the alcohol on shore, be aware of your surroundings, and make sure everyone on board your boat knows the safety procedures.”

The Kansas Boater Safety Education course is offered three ways ­­– a home study packet, online or in a classroom. Go to, click on “Boating,” then “Boating Education” to learn more. Not only will the course help you be safer on the water, you might also get a discount on your boat insurance.

Boat safe this Memorial Day weekend and enjoy the wonderful water recreation opportunities our Kansas lakes offer.