DNR official offers advice to prep for big boating weekend ahead

DES MOINES — An official who’s in charge of state boating safety courses says the first step to a safe boating weekend is checking the equipment that will be transporting a vessel on land.

Susan Stocker has been the boating law administrator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources since 2009. “Memorial weekend is coming up and, of course, it’s the start of the Iowa boating season,” Stocker says. “People, before they even head out to the lake, make sure that their trailer, wheel bearings and their lights are all in working condition so you’ll be able to get yourself to the body of water you want to go on.”

Once on the water, Stocker says boat operators and passengers need to be on the look out for floating debris. “We’ve got some higher water throughout Iowa, so you want to make sure that you see if there are any logs that are just under the surface of the water and you want to make sure that you, though surrounded by water…drink plenty of water and have sunscreen.” Stocker says, “and make sure that you save the alcohol when you’re back on shore.”

Stocker says drunk boating can be as dangerous as drunk driving on the roads because the affects of the wind and glare of the sun can enhance the effects of alcohol.  “It can slow a person’s reaction and cause some hazarous conditions when trying to operate a boat,” she says.

A wearable life jacket is required safety equipment for every person aboard a boat. Vessels that are 16 feet or longer need a floating device, like a ring buoy on a rope, that can be thrown to someone who may be in trouble in the water.