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Holiday weekend marks beginning of summer fun; safety important

Holiday weekend marks beginning of summer fun; safety important

Posted: Friday, May 25, 2012 3:00 pm

With warm weather is settling into our area now, many folks will be spending time on the water with friends and families. And with this weekend being the holiday that marks the first of the summer fun, please be aware of the rules and regulations.
Here are just a few I thought are very important for you to know before going out on your favorite body of water this weekend or during this summer.
All children 12 years of age and younger are required to wear a Coast Guard approved PFD while on the open deck of a recreational boat except when anchored, moored or aground. There are four basic things you should keep in mind about your personal flotation devices.
First, you must have one wearable device of the appropriate size on board for each person in the boat or each person being towed. (This applies to rowboats, sailboats, canoes and rafts as well as motorboats.)
Second, each device must be kept readily accessible. They should not be hidden below deck or stored in plastic bags. They should be worn — or at least be close at hand — where they can be reached quickly in an emergency.
Third, each device must be Coast Guard approved and bear the approval stamp and number.
Fourth, each device must be in good condition and be of the appropriate size for the person intended to wear it. The straps must be firmly affixed, there should be no rips, tears or holes which will affect the operating efficiency of the device, and there should be no leaks in the plastic bags containing the flotation material (this can be checked by squeezing each bag and listening for escaping air).
But one thing many of you may not be aware of or have forgotten is a Tennessee boating law that affects anyone born after January 1, 1989.
Any Tennessee resident born that date must have in their possession a TWRA-issued card showing proof of successful completion of the TWRA administered boating safety exam if operating alone.
Persons under 12 years old may not operate a powered boat of more than 8.5 horsepower unless accompanied by an adult who can take immediate control of the vessel.
If the accompanying adult (18 or older) is born after that date, then he/she must have the boating safety certification card onboard. Personal watercraft may not be rented by anyone younger than 16 years of age.
Then there comes another issue — boating under the influence.
It is unlawful to operate any sail or powered vessel while under the influence of intoxicants or drugs. Here are some important facts to consider.
I persoanlly do not understand why people think alcohol has to be included with their boating and/or fishing at times. I can sure have a great time without it.
All persons operating a sail or powered vessel have given their implied consent to chemical tests to determine the alcohol or drug content of their blood. Failure to consent to testing is a separate offense and may result in suspension of vessel operating privileges for six months.
A vessel operator whose BAC tests show .08 percent or greater by weight of alcohol shall constitute a violation of this statute and is presumed under the influence and his or her ability to operate a vessel is impaired.
Blood-alcohol content may be taken from all operators involved in an accident where death or serious injury occurred.
Conviction for operating under the influence will result in fines of up to $2,500 on the first offense, $2,500 on the second offense and $5,000 for the third offense. A jail sentence of 11 months and 29 days may also be imposed for any conviction and operating privileges may be suspended from one to 10 years. Additional federal penalties may also be charged.
If you plan to add alcohol to your boating trip, I advise you, and it is the law, to have someone behind the controls of that boat who is sober and has consumed nothing in the form of alcohol or drugs.
Let us all help in keeping Tennessee waters safe and enjoyable this weekend and all summer.
These are just a few of important rules and laws to follow while boating on Tennessee waters and for more information, you can visit the TWRA website at .
I continue to keep my eye on the water situation that is ongoing up on the Tennessee River and Kentucky/Barkley Lakes systems.
Kentucky Lake is not showing much of a sign of being anywhere close to the summer pool level mark of 359.0 feet above sea level, especially for this big Memorial Day Holiday weekend. At midweek, the lake had dropped a inch or two and was in the 357.15 feet above sea level range. Usually by the first of May, the lake is summer pool but it doesn’t look like this is going to happen by this weekend. That is almost two feet below the normal level during the summer months.
So, for anyone who is heading to the Kentucky Lake/Big Sandy area this weekend, please play it smart. Run the bouys and pay close attention. Areas you are usually use to running your boats, jet skies and water skiing is not a place you need to be at this time. If you do not have some type of marine electronic sonar on your boat loaded with a Navionics Lake SD Card, you may be in trouble. I’m mighty afraid that there could be a higher number of accidents up and down the Tennessee River from Pickwick Dam to the Kentucky Dam this weekend and until the water levels reach their peak.
Please use extreme caution while navigating around Kentucky Lake. You can check the hourly and daily current and predicted lake levels by going to
Water temps will be warm and in the 80 degree range if not warmer on Kentucky Lake also.
Reelfoot Lake is suffering as well with the lack of rainfall. Right now the lake is in the 282.0 feet above sea level mark and dropping slowly every day. The water conditions as for water color is not the best and getting worse. Usually, by the middle to end of June, the Reelfoot waters are a soupy greenish tint but that is already taking place now. This is mainly due to a rather warm late winter and spring season and warmer water temperatures.
Until we get rain, don’t look for things to get any better and the fishing will basically stay the same or get worse with time. The example I use is if we get in a stagnet weather day to day deal with hat and humid weather, we tend to slow down a bit and not be like our normal selves. Fish are the same way when their living surroundings turn the same way. They become slow and sluggish.
The 2013 Tennessee hunting regulations has been set by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commision. For more info, go to their website at
Til next week’s column,
Please be safe this weekend and use common sense.
Catch ya on the water folks.                   — Brent

Published in The Messenger 5.25.12

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