Greg Lucas’ father made him wear a life jacket every time they went out on a boat.
“He was like a security nut,” Lucas said. “I grew up in Camden and we had accommodation on Wateree Lake. We just didn’t go out on the boat without a life jacket all the time. “
Lucas, a spokesperson for the state’s natural resources department, still wears one today, despite the law only requiring that there be personal flotation devices for everyone on a boat.
“I’ve worked with DNR for 31 years, and most of all I think when I’m on a boat I have to have a life jacket,” Lucas said. “If someone takes a picture of me and I don’t have a life jacket, it doesn’t look good. Here you work for the state agency that promotes the use of life jackets, and here you don’t wear any.
Children under 12 must wear an approved life jacket at all times.
“It’s the # 1 thing we tell people about boating safety: wear a life jacket,” Lucas said. “That (not wearing one) is kind of like trying to put on your seat belt while you have a shipwreck. It just won’t happen. You never expect to fall from a boat, but it does happen. It may not be your own negligence. It might be something you have no control over.
If you don’t have a life jacket, there are kiosks at many docks in the Lakelands and across the state that offer loaner vests.
“People who fish are probably the most at risk because they are outside all day and night, and in weather conditions that are not always perfect, so they are probably more at risk than the rest of us. us, ”Lucas said. . “If you want to stay alive, it’s a good idea to wear a life jacket. “
Lucas also said life jackets are important for people wading in lakes and rivers, as there can be drops in the water that can lead to potential drowning.
The state MNR website contains safety and boating regulations. South Carolina is one of the states that does not require a license to operate a boat. Lucas said it’s something lawmakers have considered but failed to act.
“I don’t see it in the near future,” Lucas said. “I don’t think this has been seriously discussed at this point.”
Since there is no boater license requirement, Lucas suggests that boaters take one of the free boater training courses available through MNR. He said those who take the courses are safer boaters. You can find out about the courses on the DNR website.
“People who have never ridden a boat will buy them and go out on the water – and they can legally do it,” Lucas said. “But it shows in their boating behavior that they haven’t learned everything about boats, such as the basic rules of how to behave on the waterways. It is so much safer. People who have never been in a boat have a lot of ah-ha moments in these lessons. It is highly recommended.
The US Coast Guard Auxiliary and Zone Power Squadrons also offer boating lessons.
“These are perfectly OK,” Lucas said. “I think most of them are free.”
Lucas said the biggest problem he sees on the water is personal watercraft such as jet skis running too close to other boats and docks. You cannot be closer than 50 feet from the ship or dock when operating a personal watercraft at a speed that creates a wake.
“I think we see this violated on a fairly regular basis,” Lucas said. “I think a lot of it is because people don’t know. Owners and boat owners feel very threatened by this, and it is a common complaint that MNR receives.
In addition to life jackets (personal flotation devices) for each person, boaters are required to have a sound device, such as a whistle, horn or bell, and a fire extinguisher. Boats must be registered and boaters must have operational lights to operate before sunrise and after sunset. Personal watercraft are not permitted to operate in the dark.
“You have to have navigation lights between sunrise and sunset,” Lucas said of the boats. “You must have a masthead light and a gallows light, and red and green side lights which must be visible at least 3 kilometers away, and you must have a white light all around which is visible at minus 2 miles away.
For more information on boating safety, regulations and available training courses, visit the DNR website at dnr.sc.gov and click on the “navigation” link in the side menu.
Contact editor Greg K. Deal at 864-943-5647 or follow him on Twitter @IJDEAL.