Just because there is less traffic on the water doesn’t mean there is reason to let safety go to the wind.
Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Marine Patrol Cpl. Wade Fail said many of the same safety measures boaters use around traffic in the summer should be used now and with winter pool water levels extra care should be taken.
“There are several things to be reminded of while boating in the winter,” Fail said. “When the water is down, the shallow spots are even shallower. There are more rocks exposed or just under the water.”
Fail said the lower water means objects covered by water in the summer may be closer to being struck by a boat because of a lack of water depth. The issue is important for all but especially for those who are not as familiar with Lake Martin such as those coming in for the weekend or out-of-town fishermen.
“Most boaters who are out here every day, they know where the shallow spots are; they know where the danger buoys are,” Fail said.
Fail said boating accidents even fatalities happen at all times of the year.
“It really depends on the part of the state you are in,” Fail said. “Our summers are extended because of the weather. Near the coast, we have accidents year round. We had several fatalities near the coast in January. Up here on the lakes and river systems, there is not as much boating traffic this time of year and fewer incidents.”
Fail said a few extra things should be thrown into storage areas of a boat because it’s winter.
“We have some issues with boaters getting stranded in the winter, breaking down and didn’t dress warm,” Fail said. “Once night comes things get cold and hypertherma can set in.”
Fail recommends keeping extra clothing and blankets in the boat for such emergencies.
Other things boaters should be reminded of are the same regardless of the time of year such as lighting and life preservers.
“No. 1 is to have running navigation lights,” Fail said. “You have to have red-green on the front and 360-white light in the back. The No. 1 we see this time of year is boaters before sunrise without lights. If you don’t know where you are going, slow down.”