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Boat safety just a few steps away

Sunny skies, a sparkling blue lake and an extended weekend – a boater’s dream.

Coast Guard Officer Bill Williamson said there are some simple precautions boaters can take to keep that day on the lake from turning into a nightmare.

“We want everyone to have a good time,” he said. “But we also want them to be safe.”



Williamson said two main problems – speeding and drunken driving – are the cause of many preventable accidents.

“Keeping safe speeds around other boats and not drinking while operating the boat are the two important things people can do to be safe,” he said.



Besides being a safety concern, drinking alcohol while driving a boat is against the law.

“Drinking and driving on a boat is the same as drinking and driving in a car,” Williamson said. “We have the field sobriety test and a breath test to determine if the drivers are within the state’s legal limits and if they’re not, they can be arrested,” he said.

Driving a boat while under the influence of alcohol can also carry a hefty fine – up to $10,000, according to Williamson.

Not having proper life jackets on board also carries a steep $10,000 maximum penalty.

“They need to have enough life jackets for everyone on board and the right size to fit the kids if they have any,” Williamson said.

Williamson said boaters should keep an eye on the weather, especially in Tahoe.

“The weather at Lake Tahoe can change rapidly,” he said “This weekend there’s a possibility of thunder storms and that can make for big waves.”

The National Weather Service in Reno said that the threat of afternoon thunderstorms will continue through Monday and winds should be 15 to 20 mph all weekend.

“The weekend looks good for boating,” said Terry Ryan, National Weather Service specialist. “Especially in the morning before the winds start up.”

California boating laws:

– A boating while intoxicated conviction counts against your driver’s license

– You must be 16 years old to operate a watercraft that has a 15 horsepower engine or greater

– Children 6 and under must wear a life jacket at all times


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