Do whatever floats your boat…just make sure you’re doing it safely.

Boating is a popular activity in North Dakota, and it’s that time of year when many families start hitting the open water. 

When the weather is nice, one of the best ways to enjoy it is on the river or lake. Like any form of transportation, boats have risk factors. 

This is why it’s best to know what you’re doing while operating a buoyant barge.

“We need to make sure that we’re complying with Game and Fish rules when it comes to having a throwable and all the other safety items,” Dustin Melby with Moritz Sport and Marine said. “Fire extinguishers, your life jackets, your PFD throwable. Those types of things are must-haves in your boat.”

When enjoying the water this summer, be sure to keep life jackets on board at all times. Enough for each person.

Melby explained why it’s important to know the machinery that you are operating and all the bells and whistles that come along with water transportation.

“Just like your car, you want to be able to have great temperature control. You want to be able to comply with the rules of the road. You want to have a great comfortable ride, and you just want to be able to enjoy your experience. You don’t want to have a lot of questions with it, and you want to know the best way to enjoy your investment,” Melby said.

While it’s fun to enjoy your time on the water, it’s important to keep yourself and others around you safe.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2020 recreational boating statistics, 75 percent of boating deaths were from drowning. Eighteen percent of those deaths occurred with alcohol being the leading factor. 

“If you are having some adult beverages, keep that on a lower scale,” Eric Lang, state park manager at Lake Metigoshe State Park said. “Just to make sure you’re out there recreating safely for everybody, not just yourself, and you’re keeping others’ safety in mind as well.”

Even if alcohol is not a risk factor involved, it is still important to know your surroundings. Rivers have different potential dangers than lakes. 

“There’s a lot more chance that you’re going to run into debris floating in the water or being submerged under the water that you’re not going to see,” Lang explained. “That can include sandbars, trees that may have fell in the water. Lakes as well, they can hold your hidden obstructions as well, so you just want to be careful how close you’re getting to the edges of the bank,” said Lang.

Lang says that the best thing you can do to keep safe while navigating the waters is to slow down and be respectful of the other people on the water and give them their space so accidents can be minimized. Before you push off the dock, make sure that the weather ahead is looking warm and clear.