LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – The weather is warming, and thousands of Arkansans are anxious to get into their boats and head out for fishing, skiing and other recreational activities on the water.
Are they ready? Do they have a check system before launching and pulling away from the dock?
Early in the warm-weather season, some boaters may rush to get on the water and overlook details that could cause trouble. Beginning boaters, too, need to check over these details that may not be familiar to them, says Capt. Stephanie Weatherington, boating law administrator with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
"Safe and enjoyable boating is mostly common sense," Weatherington said. "There are rules and laws, but such little things like forgetting to put the plug in your boat before launching can create major headaches."
A basic check list for boaters before leaving home:
- Boat registration: Is your boat registered and is the registration current? Is the trailer license current?
- Gasoline: If the gas in the boat tank has been there since last season, replace it with fresh fuel. You don't want to get out on a lake when moisture in the fuel suddenly stops the engine.
- Life jackets: Is there one in the boat for every person who will be aboard?
- Steering cable: Turn the boat steering wheel and make sure the motor turns with it.
- Lights: Make sure all the lights on the boat are working. You may be planning a daylight-only outing, but something could delay you until nightfall. Check the trailer's lights also.
- Fire extinguisher: Make sure it is charged.
- Wheel bearings: Before your first outing of the season, pull off the caps on the trailer wheels and check the grease. This is a critical, but often overlooked item on trailers.
- Check the weather: If a storm is forecast, you may want to change plans.
- Cell phone: Take one if at all possible. They don't function in some remote areas, but they work most places in Arkansas.
- Supplies: In addition to fishing gear or swim items, take along drinking water, sunscreen, insect repellent and a first aid kit.
At the launch ramp:
- Make sure the drain plug is firmly in place in the boat.
- Check the motor kill switch if your boat has one.
- Set the parking brake on the vehicle towing the boat.
- Unhook the trailer lights from the towing vehicle.
- Take tie-down straps off the boat so the trailer doesn't float.
- Put on life jackets even if not required by law. It's the safe thing to do.
"If boaters spend just a little time getting ready to go, they will save some headaches, not to mention possibly their lives, once they get on the water," Weatherington said.