School’s out, and it’s the perfect time to go boating at one of Lafayette County’s lakes.
An important step to having an enjoyable boating experience is prioritizing safety. In 2020 alone, the American Boating Association counted 5,265 accidents and 3,191 injuries related to boats. Thanks to Lafayette County Sheriff’s Major Alan Wilburn, we compiled a list of tips to keep you safe this summer.
1. Check that your boat is properly packed and maintained.
“You want to make sure you have everything you need, like a fire extinguisher, horn, life jackets,” said Wilburn. “Keep your cell phone with you, too. You can put them in a Ziplock or dry bags.”
You also will need to ensure that your boat is in good working order.
“One of the most common reasons a boat is towed,” said Wilburn “is because of improper maintenance, it ran out of gas, the boater doesn’t know what they’re doing, or the boat has gotten stuck on land or a sandbar.” Keeping your boat maintained will help it maneuver through the water better.
You can check out the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks for a full boating checklist.
2. Be mindful of your surroundings.
Boaters understand that wind can play a huge factor in boating safety. If there’s too much wind on a lake, it can blow water in the back of your boat, making the water choppy. It’s simply not a good idea to launch your boat on the water on a very windy day.
But what about if you’re already on the water when the wind picks up?
“That’s when you need to have your phone on you with notifications for the National Weather Service turned on,” said Wilburn. “They’ll provide you with a 45-minute warning to get out of the water.”
It’s also important to be familiar with the boat ramp and the depth of the water, when you’re lowering your boat. Take the time to inspect your ramp—and make sure it’s ready before you bring your boat close. The Clear Creek boat ramp, for example, is currently shut down for boats.
3. If you’re in trouble, call for help as soon as possible.
Even by following all the safety rules, it’s still possible to get into trouble. If you begin to notice that you’re going to need help, Wilburn asks boaters to call 911 for help immediately.
“Don’t wait until dark,” he said. “The sooner, the better.”
You can also call the non-emergency line at 662-234-6421 for issues that aren’t urgent.
Doing your part to be a good boater will help you and others have fun and stay safe this summer.
“Be courteous, be smart, and be patient,” advised Wilburn. “And wear your life jacket when you’re supposed to.” By following these tips and prioritizing safety, you will surely have an enjoyable and safe boating outing.