August 07, 2013 - BY ANDREA M. BEAUDOIN
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Water sports are fun, but can be also very dangerous.
Accidents happen, but are less likely to occur if rules are followed to honor the safety of people and property.
A group of homeowners on Deer Lake issued a Boaters Safety Guide to all members on the board because they are concerned about the safety of people on the lake.
"We are very concerned that an accident like the one that happened on Sylvan Lake will happen on Deer Lake," said homeowner Elizabeth Wagner. "We just want people to be safe on the lakes."
Alexander Mansour, 11, and his sister Gabrielle, 6, of West Bloomfield were killed when the towed inner tube on which they were riding was hit by another boat, July 14.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Michigan leads the nation in boats registrations. In Independence Township, there are nearly 20 lakes, and a total of around 450 in Oakland County.
Some rules from Michigan Department of Natural Resources and other authorities:
• A boats length determines what safety equipment is required to adhere to state and federal laws
• A boat should never be fueled in the dark, and passengers should leave the vessel before being fueled.
• Anything that could possibly cause a spark should be turned off before fueling.
• Never fill a fuel tank up completely so the gasoline has room to expand.
• After fueling air out the boat by opening windows, doors ports and other openings
• Wipe up any fuel spills immediately.
• After fueling, it is advised a boat operator open the engine compartment and make sure it is clear of fumes. If the smell gas is present after fueling do not start the boat.
Before departing on a trip it is important to be prepared for the journey.
• Check the weather forecast, so you know what kind of conditions mother nature may throw your way.
• Make sure all control like the ignition safety switch and wrist lanyard on a PWC, are operating normally.
• Make sure a boat is equipped with safety items like a fire extinguisher, a first-aid kit and other necessary emergency supplies.
On bigger trips, a detailed safety plan should be left with a friend or family member. Information should include a float plan as well as a description of the vessel. Departure time, intended course and return time should also be included in the plan. Names, contact information and emergency contacts for each passenger should also be provided.
On the water
Drivers need to be aware of different rules on the lakes they are driving upon.
• When facing a possible encounter with another boat, drivers need to follow certain safety protocols.
• Drivers should maintain an appropriate distance and safe speed away from other boats.
• Yield the right away when coming face to face with any vessel, when a vessel is towing, a commercial fishing boat, or a sailboat. In addition be cautious of any boat that is stationary or in any way disabled.
• Anyone being towed by a watercraft, must wear the required approved PFD.
• Anyone pulling or towing a person must have at least two people on board including the boat operator and a "spotter" or someone to keep an eye on the person being towed at all times.
• It is prohibited to pull anyone on water skis, a surfboard or similar one hour before sunrise or one hour after sunset or sunrise and 8 p.m.
• An operator towing a person must maintain a 100 foot distance from docks or similar structures, the shore, other vessels and swimming areas.
Operating at night
Operating a water vessel at night can be dangerous, so it's important to follow these rules and make sure a boat is equipped with the proper equipment.
Safety equipment that should be in proper working order includes sidelights, sternlights, masthead lights and all around white lights. Sidelights allow on oncoming boat to see a vessel from the side, a sternlight is located in the rear of the boat and allow vessels to see the rear of the vessel, masthead lights are located in the front and provide light to not only the front but also the sides.
Buoys are markers in the water that provide important information. The most common types of these you will find on a lake include a buoy with a circle in the middle. A buoy with a circle in the middle indicates information regarding the speed limit, if fishing or anchoring is prohibited, or if an area allows no skiing or slow or no wake.
• Crossed diamond symbols in the middle of a buoy indicate a no swimming area or other areas off limit to boats.
• Diamonds in the middle of a buoy warn of dangerous areas.
Personal Watercraft (PWC)
• PWC, like jet ski's, have no brakes and therefore plenty of room must be maintained to stop the craft.
• Even when towing passengers behind a PWC, a spotter in addition to the operator should be on board to watch out for the passengers being towed.
• Most PWS's are equipped with an emergency ignition safety switch. This device, which is attached via a lanyard is usually attached to the operators wrist, and will cause the craft to shut down if the driver is ejected. If a vessel does not come with this switch one should be installed. It is unlawful and dangerous to operate a PWC without a lanyard attached to the operator and safety switch.
• Before operating a PWC it is important to know the proper reboarding procedure and also know how to right a machine if it gets overturned. Before riding on open water, the PWC operator should practice boarding the vessel from the water.
• Riding too close or passing other vessels is dangerous. It can also be dangerous to jump the waves of other crafts because it could block the view of oncoming vessels.
• Body parts such as arms or legs, jewelry, hair or anything dangly must be kept away from the PWC intake pump.
No person under 14 is legally allowed to operate a PWC. Ages 14 and 15 may operate a PWC after obtaining a boating safety certificate and having a parent, guardian or someone 21 years or older on board (or within 100 feet) of the teen driving the PWC. Anyone 16 or older (or anyone born after December 31, 1978) can only operate a PWC after obtaining a boaters safety certificate.
Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
• PFD need to be in good shape and approved by the U.S Coast Guard. All PFD's need to be easily accessible to all riders as well as the boat operator.
• All vessels must be equipped with one PFD for very person on board and anyone being towed.
• Children under six must wear a PFD at all times.
• Everyone riding on a PWC must wear an approved PFD
• Approved fire extinguisher
• First aid kit
• Visual distress items that can include flares, orange smoke and red meteors that can alert others you may be in danger. Sound producing items should also be carried on board.
• Safety equipment varies depending on the size of the watercraft.
The following is illegal ways to operate watercraft in Michigan
• Operating in any manner that ignores or endangers the safety of others is considered reckless operation. An example of this can include weaving or swerving through a crowed waterway.
• Harassing wildlife
• Operating at dangerous speeds or driving faster than conditions permit. It is also unlawful to drive fast in slow no wake zones, an area that a boater must maintain the slowest speed possible to not provide any wake or waves.
• Not maintaining appropriate distances from an anchored craft, a dock or raft, the shoreline, swimming areas or a person in the water.
• all boats must drive their vessel counterclockwise on any body of water except if marked otherwise.
• driving in restricted areas.
• Operating with insufficient equipment.
• Operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs is dangerous and unlawful. Under Michigan law, a driver is considered over the limit of their Blood Alcohol content (BAC) is 0.10 percent you are considered under the influence. However under certain circumstances a person operating with a BAC over 0.07 percent can also be considered under the influence.
• By operating a boat on Michigan water a driver has consented to be tested for alcohol or drugs if arrested by a law enforcement official.
• It is unlawful to obstruct navigation by interfering with the passage of another vessel.
• Attaching any craft to lights, buoys or beacons installed in the water by authorities is prohibited.
• Obstructs any boating facility is also illegal.
If involved in an accident certain procedures must be followed including;
• Stop the craft immediately and call 911
• If you can safely do so assist anyone in danger.
• Exchange personal information and watercraft identification with others involved in the accident.
• Under certain circumstances boaters must report an accident and fill out a form supplied by the MDNR. The rules and regulations are enforced by local police, DNR and other authorities.
For a complete list of rules and laws regarding boaters safety visit www.boated.com.