SPECIAL REPORT: Safety on the water

Special Reports

Corporal Ben Payne is a very familiar sight on our waterways.

“I patrol on the Savannah River, Lake Olmstead, the Augusta Canal,” Payne says.”  

54 miles of shoreline. From Columbia County down to Screven and Clark’s Hill Lake when it gets busy. 

He’s been on duty for Georgia’s  Department of Natural Resources for more than 2 decades. More than half his life out here protecting yours. 

And that protection starts with this. 

“If you were to get thrown into the water, trying to get  a life jacket on in the water is not real feasible.”

The law requires children under the age of 13 to wear a life jacket while the boat is moving.  Grownups need to have one handy. The right one. 

“It has to match the person that’s on board. So if you have quite a hefty man, that might require a double X, you might want a double X life jacket for that person.”

And if you get stopped. Payne’s gonna check for it. 

The great thing about the open water is that just about anybody can operate a boat. A huge privilege that comes with a big responsibility for parents. Please make sure your children have the proper training.

“But the law requires that if they’re between the age of 12 and 15, they’ve got to have that boating safety certificate to operate a vessel under 26 feet.”

Another key to keeping your summer fun and your boat afloat is to read the fine print.  Every boat comes with a Capacity Plate. 

“Every year we work some overloading accidents on our lakes.”

Pay attention to the plate and don’t let too many people on board. 

“Which could cause the actual bow of the boat to dive into waves, or the back of the boat to actually go under the water and take on a swamping type issue.”    

And if you’re thinking about drinking a cold one when you’re out on the open water, know this:

Corporal Payne says the impact of alcohol can be a lot different on a boat than what you might feel if you drink in a controlled environment.”

“If you can drink 4 beers and be under a ,08 in a climatized environment, when you’re on the water you might have 2 beers, and be at that .08,” he says. “So you really gotta limit the intake of alcohol when  you get out in the elements.” 

It’s not illegal to have an open container on a boat. You just have to make sure the operator is sober. 

Good boating is really all about common sense. Taking the time to make sure you have the right equipment, and the right mindset to keep yourself and those around you, safe.

It’ll keep Corporal Payne away from you, and it’ll make the rest of his impressive career, a little bit easier. 

“Know your game plan. Know where you’re going. Let somebody know where you’re going. And leave the alcohol at home.”

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