Safety is critical for all boaters

By the Advocate Editorial Board
May 18, 2017 at 3:36 p.m.

Almost every day is boating season in South Texas.

Thousands of residents each year flock to our state's bays, lakes and Gulf to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the water.

In little more than a week, countless recreational boaters will respond to the unofficial start of summer - Memorial Day - and invade the waterways along the Texas coastline.

And as they check their provisions and inspect their gear, mariners must keep one idea at the top of every list - safety.

Several news stories in recent weeks have sadly emphasized how important it is to take every safety precaution possible before venturing on the water. That is not to say that people die because they are careless. On the contrary, their deaths are a tragic reminder that one can never be too safe.

In April, a 44-year-old Bastrop man died when he and a friend went fishing in Port O'Connor.

That same month, a 58-year-old Port Lavaca man took a canoe into Chocolate Bay and drowned.

In May, a 53-year-old Austin man was found dead in Copano Bay after he went missing. His boat had been discovered idling in the water with a fishing pole and cellphone aboard.

Water safety experts agree that boating rules and regulations are critical and disregarding them can lead to accidents or a tragedy.

Being on the water is fun, but it's not worth jeopardizing your life or the lives of others.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, anyone who operates a vessel who is born on or after Sept. 1, 1993, must pass a boater education class or equivalency exam prescribed by the department. Other details about what is required are on the department's website.

Experts say a common mistake many boaters make is a lack of preparation. They are in a rush to get on the water, and they forget to pack the essentials.

They need life jackets, personal flotation devices that can be deployed in a hurry and fire extinguishers in working order. When it comes to safety gear, boaters should prepare for the worst scenario.

Listening to weather reports, knowing the seascape and consulting with more experienced boaters are smart steps to take before traversing the waterways.

And like on land in a vehicle, there should be a designated driver for every boat where there is drinking and a party.

Experts also agree that boaters should be familiar with the limitations of their vessels and know the weather conditions it can handle.

Quick forming thunderstorms are not uncommon in the Texas Gulf Bend, and when the sky starts to look threatening, that is time to return to shore.

And boaters planning to be on the water for an extended period should also let someone know their route and their destination. They should pack extra food and water in case of an emergency.

How many vessels that take to the water daily is a number tough to estimate, but as the weather gets warmer, especially during the holidays, that figure is sure to balloon.

The officials who patrol our bays and the Gulf have a difficult job to keep everyone safe.

And there is a lot of territory to cover.

So every boater must do their part to stay safe.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.


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