I love the water and being out on our boat on the lake. We are out there nearly every week, year round. I don’t take for granted the beautiful scenery and the freedom of feeling the sun and wind on my face. We have fun too; lots of fun with friends. We spent Friday through Monday on the lake this past July 4th weekend. We were sun-baked, sore and tired when we finally got home. But we did get home. Sadly, on Lake Travis alone, on this one weekend of the year, there were several accidents and drownings: a 2-year old baby girl fell off a dock near Emerald Point and drowned before her family could rescue her; a bi-plane crashed into the crowded waters off Windy Point, thankfully with no casualties; two motor boats collided one evening near Devil’s Cove, sending ten people into the water in the dark, four people to the hospital, and one driver to jail for DUI; and the body of a 50-year old man was found drowned off Graveyard Point. The previous weekend a 9-year old girl was injured by the spinning propeller of a motor boat operated by her father as she was floating off the back of the boat near Mansfield Dam Park. And there have been 2 or 3 other drownings on Lake Travis just in the last month. Tragic. Sad. It makes you pause. It should make you pause. It is easy to underestimate or disregard the potential dangers of being on the water, and the responsibility all boaters have to take care for ourselves, our guests, and the other boaters whose paths we cross.
The lake can look serene, but can be deadly. Put your lifejackets on your kids! Keep yours on or at least within reach if you are in the boat, and always put one on if you get out of the boat to swim or jet-ski or kayak or SUP or ski or wave-board. Learn the rules of the road… who has right-of-way, when. Maintain the required 50′ minimum distance from other boats while underway. Study the maps of the lake so you know where you are and where you are going. Don’t drink and drive a boat. Learn how to anchor securely and safely. Don’t drive over the anchor rodes of boats you are approaching. Pay attention to the wind to know how it will blow your boat relative to other boats at anchor. Know that your boat throws a wake and be courteous to other boaters. Learn to recognize marker buoys: hazard buoys, no-wake buoys and channel markers. A cove with a no-wake buoy means just that: don’t drive your boat or jet-ski at a speed that will create any wake. Do not operate your motor if anyone is near your boat or any lines are floating near your boat. Watch out for floating debris in the water. Use your running lights after sunset. Learn how to interpret the running lights on other boats to know in what direction they are moving. And for God’s sake, slow down.
Check out the LCRA’s safe boating advice. Or, better yet, take a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department boater safety course. It is actually required by law in Texas for anyone born after September 1, 1993 who is operating a jet-ski, or any boat with 15 HP or greater motor, or any sailcraft over 14 feet.
Learn how to recognize the signs of drowning. It’s not necessarily how it is depicted in the movies.
Please be careful out there.