DNR Reminds Boaters to Stay Safe on the Lake this Holiday Weekend

The Memorial Day holiday weekend is upon us and visitors to Lake Hartwell are starting to arrive and looking forward to a long weekend of fun on the water.

That’s why the Georgia Department of Natural Resources wants everyone to remember a few simple safety measures to ensure you and your loved ones have a great and safe holiday.

DNR Game Warden Phillip Nelson and DNR Ranger Sgt. Tim Vickery reminds everyone planning to be on the lake, especially first-timers, to remember the “rules of the road” and wear those life jackets.

“We do have rules of the road on the lake. That’s the big thing. If you haven’t taken a boater education course you need to go to GoBoat Georgia and take one,” he said. “But what we mostly see is people without life jackets on the boat. We see underage kids without life jackets. So, if the boat is underway and they’re under 13 they have to be wearing that life jacket if the boat is underway. Another thing we see is a lot of people out here and maybe it’s their first weekend and they get out here at night on the weekend and their lights don’t work. So make sure your lights work before you go out.”

Vickery says he and fellow DNR officers will be out on the water this weekend checking boating registrations and looking for impaired boaters.

Georgia has a zero-tolerance policy for impaired boating, and if caught you will go to jail.

He recommends that, just as you have a designated driver when drinking on land, you have a “designated skipper” if you plan to have alcohol on your boat.

Other concerns for boaters this weekend include remembering simple things like making sure you have enough fuel and your boat is in good nick so you don’t find yourself dead in the water in the middle of the lake.

DNR Game Warden Phillip Nelson recommends having a “float plan” if find yourself stranded on the water.

“If you’re going out on the lake you need to let your party know, ‘Hey we’re going up Reed Creek and we’ll be out there for about two hours.’ That way, if you go out and it’s been four hours your party may think something is wrong, and if they call the DNR they can tell us, ‘Hey they went up Reed Creek. They were supposed to be gone two hours, they’ve been gone four and we can’t get them on the phone.’ At least the DNR ranger has an idea of where they are instead of just telling us, ‘They’re out on the lake.’

Vickery said additionally, if you’re renting a boat from one of the marinas on Lake Hartwell and you get stranded you can call the marina to come get you. There’s also a boat towing service available called TowBoatUSA.

And again, if you are a new boater, you can take advantage of a boater education and safety class by going online to https://www.boat-ed.com/georgia/.