Busy season on water begins today with calls to take extra care

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 1, 2011

By Nathan Hardin
For the Salisbury Post
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is preparing for one of the busiest boating holidays starting today by cautioning those on the water to be aware of increased boating traffic.
The Commission released several recommended steps for boaters, including tips on launching and recovering vessels. According to Senior Officer Bill Tarplee, the overall safety theme this weekend is awareness.
“One of the leading causes of boat accidents is not keeping a good lookout. It’s a multitasking operation,” Tarplee said.
Officers aren’t out to stop boaters’ fun, Tarplee said, but they are out to ensure safety.
“The biggest thing is we just want everybody to be safe, and to make sure everyone keeps an eye out and kids under 13 wear a life jacket,” Tarplee said. “If you’re drinking, have a designated driver.”
Intoxicated boat operators are one of Jeremy Meadows’ main concerns.
“You just have to watch out for drunk people on the boats, but there’s a lot of police out here. They crack down on that,” Meadows said.
Meadows, who owns a 13-foot sailboat, said he enjoys the increased traffic on July Fourth.
“I personally enjoy it,” Meadows said. “I’m looking for that kind of stuff. Sailboats have the right of way on any lake.”
Meadows said other boaters, however, don’t usually enjoy the high-volume traffic.
“It’s crowded. You can’t get up to any speed on July Fourth. You have to get out here earlier in the day,” he said.
Keith Jones, a Davie County resident, agrees.
“On the Fourth, (the lake) is like a crowded freeway at 5 o’clock,” Jones said. “I don’t think I’ll do that again. There are too many boats.”
Jones said because of the number of people on the water, boating on July Fourth at High Rock Lake is like being a defensive driver.
“You have to keep a vigil out because you don’t know what the other boaters are going to do,” Jones said. “You don’t know what their intentions are.”
Jones said another concern when boating at High Rock is the amount of debris in the water.
“There’s a lot of things underwater that you don’t see,” Jones said.
According to Tarplee, debris is just something boaters have to contend with when boating on a river.
“Anytime you’re in a moving river you’re going to have logs and debris that float downstream sporadically,” Tarplee said. “Some are big; some are small. It goes back to making sure you’re keeping a lookout for things going on in the river.”
Tarplee said the key to avoiding debris is reducing your speed on the water.
“It’s similar to an iceberg. Just because you see something little doesn’t mean it’s little under the water,” Tarplee said. “Reduce your speed — especially when you’re in high-traffic areas.”
Carlos Hernandez, a Cabarrus County resident, said he’s been fishing at High Rock Lake for the past week but won’t stay around for the holiday weekend.
“There’s just too many boats,” Hernandez said. “They make a lot of waves. It’s really bad for regular bass boats.”
Another concern for Hernandez and Jones is how close personal watercraft come to other vessels on the lake.
According to Tarplee, personal watercraft operators will be ticketed this weekend if they do not adhere to the state’s operator regulations.
“Jet Skis are required by law to be 100 feet from boats that are moored, boats that are anchored or any other boats,” Tarplee said. “It’s a pretty good distance, but if you look at the totality of the circumstance — if you’re going wide open — it’s not very far at all.”