Boaters Hoping for Long, Safe Boating Season - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Boaters Hoping for Long, Safe Boating Season

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With beautiful weather in store for us this weekend, conservation officers are expecting a lot of boaters to go out onto the river and take advantage of it, and that means safety is a top concern.

We checked in with boaters putting their vessels out onto the water on Friday, and many told us they have high hopes for this season.

Boaters we talked to at Sunset Marina say this season has to be better than last year's, with its flooding at the beginning which made way for dangerously low water levels for the rest of it.

Now, after a long winter, and with at least one new law on the books boaters should know about, many told us they are anxious to finally get out on their boats and enjoy the water.

"I can't wait! I retired this year and I can't wait for the boats to be in," said Maurine Young, who plans to put her boat in the water at Sunset Marina on Saturday.

Since Sunset Marina opened for the season on April 1, quite a few local residents have been taking steps to put their boats on the water for the year.

"Waxing, buffing, all that stuff, and when you've got one of these bigger boats like a 38 foot, it's a lot of work," said Ken Sheldon, who put his boat in the water at the marina on Friday.

But, one of the most important bits of work to do before putting the boat out is checking safety equipment.

"You have to have your life jackets, fire extinguishers, the list goes on and on," said Steven Lehmkuhl, who was buffing a boat at the Marina on Friday.

"You don't want to get caught in a situation that you're not prepared for," he added.

Safety was a common concern among boaters we talked to, especially in light of last weekend's boating death in our area:

"You have got to have enough life jackets," said Mary Strassman, who has had her boat in the water at the marina since April 1. "And a lot of people don't realize that until they're 12, they're supposed to have them on all the time when you're on the boat."

In fact, that's the law.

In both Illinois and Iowa, you must have one life jacket for every person on the boat, and everyone under 13 has to be wearing one at all times.

"It's important to have those life jackets on," Young said.

And, it's critical that you boat sober.

Both Illinois and Iowa count anyone driving a boat with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher as boating while intoxicated.

And now, in Illinois, that could cost you your driver's license if you're involved in a serious boating accident, thanks to a new law that took effect at the start of this year.

"You have got to know what you're doing, because there's a lot of danger out there. There really is," Sheldon said.

In honor of National Boat Safety Week May 17th through the 24th, the US Coast Guard Auxiliary will be doing vessel safety checks at boating ramps around our area.

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