Experts stress boater safety

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) Experts said it is critical that people know the rules of the water especially this time of year with Memorial Day quickly approaching.

Larry Byrd said, "A lot of it is just the mentality. People think it can't happen to them. It only takes one misstep on a boat." Even though Byrd has more than 40 years of experience out on the water he said he still thinks about safety.

Byrd added, "This rain for about 3-4 days we're going to see more debris. We call them dead heads or logs that are floating just beneath the surface. It's a time to slow down."

Boaters gathered recently at the Osprey Marina in Myrtle Beach to talk about how to keep everyone safe. Jerry Williams said, "Drunk driving is devastating on the road but it's even more so on the water because you have other elements. There are no brakes on a boat so boating under the influence is even worse."

Williams is a member of the Long Bay Power Squadron, and he said it is all about educating people about boating safety especially with the recent drowning we have already had this season.  Just weeks ago two men drowned in Lake Robinson in Darlington and another off of Punch Bowl Landing in Conway.

Williams added, "The most devastating thing about it is that it's preventable. Accidents do happen but when they do, you need to be prepared when those accidents do happen."

Inspector Frank Keiser said he checks boats for life jackets, fire extinguishers, navigation lights, registration and visual distress alerts to name a few.

Keiser said, "I think they probably don't realize the consequences of not knowing or having on board the equipment that's necessary and so consequently they don't take the opportunity to get their vessel safety check and it's a sad thing because they are free."

Keiser said the number of boaters that do get checked is at an all-time low in South Carolina. But for Steve Avinger whose boat was inspected recently, he said it gives him peace of mind.

Avinger said, "You know you have the equipment you need when things don't go right…when things go wrong to minimize any effects."

Boaters said some of the most important things to keep in mind is paying attention to buy markers so people can keep their bearing and watching out for wakes left behind by larger boats.

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