By Ronnie Weston| April 17, 2013 at 9:31 PM CDT - Updated June 15 at 1:23 PM
LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – It may not feel much like spring, but Arkansans will soon be heading to the water for fishing, boating, skiing and other activities.
It is highly recommended to check the boat and its gear. When you head out, it is a good idea to leave a boating plan with someone on shore, said Bob Cushing, boating education coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
But emergencies do arise. Things can happen on the water and through no fault of yours. The boat's motor can quit unexpectedly. A storm can come up quickly.
"It just makes common sense to tell someone at home or at a boat dock where you are going, when you expect to return and your cell phone number. By all means, take a cell phone along if you have one," Cushing said.
Fliers are required to file flight plans. Boaters can do the same, though it's not required and without as much detail as needed from aviators.
* Put it in writing. It's more reliable than word of mouth.
* Leave a note with a person at home or a neighbor of relative if all the family is going.
* Tell where you are going and what ramp you will launch from.
* Leave a description of your vehicle with license number and the boat with its registration number.
* List the people who will be with you.
* Give your cell phone number. Sometimes in remote areas on the water, cell phones don't function. Your chances these days, however, are good that they will work – to call and to receive calls.
* Tell when you expect to return.
If you are on a canoe or kayak float outing, give the information for the starting point and ending point and for shuttle vehicles.
By leaving a boating plan, your chances improve greatly of someone being alerted if you don't return when you expected to. With a plan, a search can begin soon after the return time passes. Without it, it could be overnight or longer before someone goes looking for you and your stranded boat.
Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1986, must take and carry proof of passing an approved AGFC boating education course in order to operate a motorboat on Arkansas's waters.
Another suggestion from Cushing is to take a boating education class. It's free, and classes are conducted all over the state by the Game and Fish Commission and volunteer instructors. You may know how to handle that boat efficiently and safely, but there is always something more to learn.
Check the AGFC web site, www.agfc.com, for boating education information. An option is to take the online boating education course, and there is a fee of $24.50 for this.