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Four Things to Know Before Boating the Lakes

March 28, 2017 | Jessica Perkins

There’s nothing quite as lovely and relaxing as a summer cruise along Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. But boaters in these parts are not immune to boating accidents and hazards. So while boating may be a fun-filled adventure that the whole family can enjoy, there are a few things you’ll want to know before you go. These tips will help keep your family and friends safe while boating the waters around Kentucky and Tennessee.

#1: Familiarize yourself with the hazards of the lakes in which you’ll be boating. This is especially important in navigating the waters of Lake Barkley, which tends to be shallow in spots, making it easy to hit an underwater obstacle that is otherwise hidden from boaters’ view. Lake Barkley is also a waterway for commercial barges that enter and depart through the area’s locks. Make sure you are aware of any potential hazards that may be seen or unseen on the lakes.

#2: Invest in and wear an ignition kill switch while boating the lakes. You never know when your boat may hit waters too rough to handle, someone may be thrown overboard, or when you, the driver, may lose control of the vessel. In some cases, boaters have been ejected from the craft, sending the boat, unmanned, flying dangerously through the waters towards other unsuspecting lake dwellers.

Ignition kill switches, also known as kill cords, can mean the difference between life and death. A kill switch generally takes the form of a short, plastic cord that can be attached to a belt loop or a life jacket, or can simply be wrapped around your wrist. While they have proven to be effective, boaters must take the time to attach them to their person before a boating mishap occurs.

#3: Always wear a life jacket. Yes, this even goes for those of you who are good swimmers. In an emergency situation, clothing will become waterlogged, making it heavy and difficult for even the strongest of swimmers to stay afloat. There are a variety of life vests on the market today that are tailored for very specific uses. For instance, if you’re looking for something less bulky than the old fashioned, orange life vests of yesterday, then inflatable vests that resemble a belt pack or a set of suspenders can be purchased. These are lighter weight and keep boaters cooler in the summer months. Boaters should be supplied with one life jacket per guest on the boat.

#4: Know the laws of the land when it comes to drinking alcohol on the lakes. Alcohol can be a major contributor to boating accidents and deaths on the lake, therefore it’s important to be responsible when out on the water. Because Kentucky Lake encompasses lands in Kentucky and Tennessee, liquor laws for each state apply depending on what part of the water it is you’re boating.

In Kentucky, it is illegal to drink in a public place, outside of a licensed business. Kentucky’s lakes and waterways are deemed public places; therefore it is illegal to drink alcohol while boating these waters. In addition to boating, the law also applies to water skis, surfboards and similar watercraft. Something else to note in Kentucky is that anyone who operates a boat or other water vessel while intoxicated is subject to arrest.

In Tennessee, it is illegal to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol. Those who are found with blood alcohol levels equal to or greater than 0.08% will be detained. Fines, jail time and, in some circumstances, loss of operator’s license may apply to those found intoxicated while boating the waters of Tennessee.

So, no matter in which state’s jurisdiction you may find yourself, play it safe and don’t drink while boating the waters of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.

Observe the Rules of the Road

While these four tips will help keep you, your family and friends out of harm’s way, they are by no means an exhaustive list of rules and boating regulations. As with any motor vessel, be observant and aware of your surroundings at all times. Note the behavior of other drivers and be courteous to those you encounter out on the waters. If you pay attention to all of these things you are sure to have a blast while boating on Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.

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