With Memorial Day approaching, and COVID-19 restrictions being eased, summer fishing and boating will be kicking into high gear on St. Bernard Parish waterways, and St. Bernard Sheriff James Pohlmann is reminding residents to practice safety while on the water.
“There will be a lot of boats out there, especially on holiday weekends like the Fourth of July and Labor Day so be careful, slow down and learn and obey the rules of boating safety,’’ Sheriff Pohlmann said. “Don’t speed and pay attention to your surroundings. Operate with caution.”
Sheriff Pohlmann also stresses the importance of continuing to practice social distancing when on the water, at boat launches and around docks in an effort to further prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Sheriff also reminds boaters that everyone on board should be wearing a personal flotation device, or life jacket.
“They are available at sporting goods and department stores,” the Sheriff said. “Everyone should be able to find one that fits.’’
With holiday celebrations, also comes the chances of people drinking while operating watercraft. Sheriff Pohlmann reminds residents people can be arrested for drinking and driving on a boat, just as they would be while operating an automobile on land.
Alcohol is a primary cause in nearly 25 percent of all fatal boating accidents nationally, Sheriff Pohlmann said. Statistics also show nearly 90 percent of the boating accidents recorded involve someone who hasn’t successfully completed a safe boating class.
Residents interested in taking a boating course can do so for free. Information can be found on the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries web site under the education section. Other state-approved safe boating courses can be found at www.wlf.louisiana.gov/boating/courses.
Capt. Brian Clark, a retired state Wildlife and Fisheries agent who heads the Sheriff’s Office Marine Division, agrees with Sheriff Pohlmann about the necessity of everyone on board wearing flotation devices, especially children.
“It’s required that anyone 17 and under wear a flotation device at all times when a boat is in motion and recommended that adults wear them also,’’ Clark said. Drowning remains the biggest cause of fatalities on the water and a life jacket being worn could save a life, he added.
“Some boaters used to resist them because they were bulky and made it hard to get around on a boat,” Clark said, “but the ones made today are lightweight and easy to use.”
Before leaving on a trip, Clark recommends informing someone of where you will be going, and approximately when you expect to return.
“Telling someone what your plans are will let them know if you are overdue so they can inform authorities,” Clark said.
Besides flotation devices, Clark said other basic rules for safety include a check of equipment before taking off. He also reminds boaters, if you have a kill switch on the motor, remember to use it if necessary.
Clark said remember to bring important items such as a cell phone and charger, a fire extinguisher, a flashlight, proper clothing, enough food and water for a trip, a safety kit, sunscreen, sunglasses to guard against glare and a device that can be thrown to aid anyone who needs help in the water.
Clark also recommends staying properly hydrated.
“Drink liquids,” he said. “Don’t let yourself get dehydrated because the sun will take a lot out of you and slow your reaction time.”
For more on state boating and life jacket regulations visit www.wlf.louisiana.gov/boating.