For recreational boaters, being on the water for the July 4 holiday is just like driving to grandma's house for Thanksgiving. Waterways are jammed, launch ramps are mayhem and getting home after the fireworks end can feel like the mall parking lot on Christmas Eve. The difference is there are no breakdown lanes.
Take care of the little things now. With July 4 occurring mid-week this year, more boaters are expected to take the week off. This likely means more use, and wear and tear on the boat. Some boats may have been recently launched and simply not up to snuff yet. Regardless, now is the time to address the things that still need fixing, with extra attention paid to the electrical (battery, charging system, navigation lights) and the fuel systems (fuel lines, fresh gas). With boat trailers, check tires for wear, bearings for grease and ensure all lights work.
Each year after the fireworks shows end and boaters head home, traffic on lakes such as Chautauqua are very busy. Having spent many a Fourth of July watching fireworks on Chautauqua Lake, I know first hand the boat traffic is at an all-time high.
Most folks keep their lights on, as you are supposed to while at anchor or floating during the evening hours. But often times the batteries on your boat will run down.
Don't run down the battery playing music all day and be careful to avoid anchor line entanglements. On the way home, post extra lookouts, don't take shortcuts and be patient at the launch ramp. Powerboaters need to watch their wakes. With nightfall, the chance of accidents increases, so it's a good idea to have everyone in life jackets. If you're concerned about getting on-the-water or roadside assistance for a broken down boat trailer or tow vehicle, check out www.BoatUS.com/towing.
For the holiday, many boating guests are likely to be children, but some vessels won't have the right-sized life jacket aboard. It's not only the law, but all youth need to have a properly fitted life jacket on. Also, smaller boats are prone to overloading, leaving just a precious few inches of freeboard to prevent wakes and waves from coming aboard. Extra guests also likely means a good party - it is America's birthday, after all, so celebrate! Just be sure alcohol doesn't become a safety issue. Waiting to drink until you safely get back home ensures everyone will have a good time