For recreational boaters, being on the water for the weekend, especially a holiday one like this past one, makes driving down Fairmount Avenue like Christmas every day. Waterways are jammed, launch ramps are mayhem and getting home after the fireworks end can feel like a the mall parking lot on Christmas eve, except there are no breakdown lanes.
Take care of the little things now. With July 4 making it a long weekend for most, more boaters are expected to make it a long weekend. This likely means more use and wear and tear on the boat. Some boats may have been recently launched and simply are 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 system (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. That means 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. Powerboats 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.
There are many folks who enjoy watching the action from the lake. For years, I have taken the family on the lake for this annual rite of summer. It was always an interesting trip. For the kids it was a lot of fun, but for the boater it can be, and generally is, a nightmare. For boaters who only boat a few times, too many adult beverages to just plain not thinking can make a planned good time not so much.
Whether it's a holiday or just a weekend outing, being prepared and thinking ahead is the responsibility of all boaters. Each time I head out on the lake I know that the folks in my boat are my responsibility and their safe return to land safe and sound is the most important thing. All boaters must understand this basic rule and know that there are rules of the water much like there are for driving a vehicle.
When heading to the water your boating guests are likely to be children, but some vessels won't have the right-sized life jacket aboard. It's not only a 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 will prevent wakes and waves from coming aboard.
Extra guests also likely means a good party. 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.