The lake is low, and the warning is high: Memorial Day water safety

APPLING, Ga. (WJBF)–  Memorial Day gives families a time to reflect on the lives lost during battle. But it’s also a time when people take advantage of vacationing on the water. Lake levels are on the rise, but still low.

This winter, the lake was 17 feet below full pool– now it’s up to 6 feet below full pool.  Even though the lake level is on the rise, and boaters feel comfortable to get back on the water, boat safety is still just as important.

“It’s supposed to be a weekend of good times, spending time with family, honoring the ones who are fallen, but it can turn tragic in a heartbeat,” Captain Gridley said.

Captains Jon Gridley and William Caskey of Waterfront Marina said the “common” rules of boating can never be stressed enough.

“The stuff that we see on a daily basis will blow your mind. The boating accidents, the fatalities, the drownings– we see it every day. There’s some scenes that will tear at your heart strings,” Gridley said.

Captain Caskey said jet-ski drivers should always take extra precaution.

“I have a wake board boat, and we were pulling a person behind our boat, and the jet ski wanted to jump the big wake that my boat produces. They were coming up about 50 to 100 feet from the person I was pulling at a high rate of speed, jumping the wakes,” Caskey said.

He explained this is dangerous because you never know when a rider may fall, and the rope pulling the rider is hard to see.

He said it seems like common sense, but life-jackets are crucial at all times because no accident is planned.

“A jet-skier was riding without his PFD on, fell off the boat, and evidently he struck his head on the way down and drowned just a couple hundred feet from the shore,” Caskey said.

In Georgia and South Carolina, anyone can write a check, buy a boat, then immediately take it out on the lake with little knowledge of boat safety. Unlike driving a car, operating a boat requires no safety course.

“I think it should mandatory for everybody. We’re all licensed coast guard captains. We’ve gone through extensive training and classroom stuff. It’s amazing the stuff that’s out there that people don’t know that we’ve experienced firsthand,” Gridley said.

Also Unlike roads, lakes don’t have lanes to maintain safe separation. Captain Gridley said staying alert is key.

“Notice your surroundings. Notice where other boats are, which direction they’re looking, if they’re paying attention to where they’re going. Once you get boats and alcohol on a holiday weekend like this, people’s guard is down quite a bit and can become difficult dangerous for other people,” Captain Gridley said.

He encourages every boat owner to take the Georgia Department of Natural Resources boater safety course. He said it teaches valuable information for yourself and surrounding boaters.

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