With April comes spring and boating season, so it’s a great time for a refresher on water safety for all those planning to enjoy High Rock Lake.

Water sports are fun, but water safety is serious stuff. From boating and fishing to kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, and tubing; we all have rules to follow and I wanted to share a few rules of note with our Rowan County friends and visitors. Don’t make simple avoidable mistakes. Use this quick and easy guide to be safe and enjoy High Rock Lake

Recently I visited with Ashley O’Hare, North Carolina Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer, to get a good sense of what is regulated by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and what simply makes good sense for an enjoyable day on High Rock Lake.

The best takeaway from this is a reminder that “courtesy on the water goes a long way”. North Carolina Wildlife likes all boaters to be responsible to avoid collision. “We call it “management boating”. You need to have control of whatever powered vessel you always have under you. Motor boats must make way or “give-away” for all non-powered watercraft which includes paddle boards and tubes,” said O’Hare. And like our normal everyday driving road rules, stay to your right.

High Rock Lake Safety Checklist

Let’s start at the beginning. We should all use a High Rock Lake checklist.

  • Safety chains locked
  • Trailer lights in working condition
  • S. Coast Guard approved life jackets, not ripped nor torn
  • Paddles
  • Anchor
  • Boat hook
  • Tie straps and ropes
  • Plugs in boat
  • Properly maintained fuel lines, battery, and oil
  • Know markers – various buoy signs
  • Bimini top or shade for children and older adults
  • First aid kit and sunscreen
  • Marine B1 fire extinguisher, serviceable and charged
  • Water and food to consume, it gets hot out there
  • Small trash bag to pick up food wrappers, water bottles, etc.

Who is Driving?

Now that each item on the checklist has been marked off, who will operate the boat?

If born on or after Jan 1, 1988 you are required to take a six-hour boater education class through NC Wildlife Cooperation. It’s free! Or there are NASBLA approved on-line classes at 16 sheriff’s offices. Check out the website for available times and locations in Rowan County.

Topics covered at the boater education classes include rules while operating a personal watercraft (PWCs), boat safety, tow-trailer maintenance, and emergencies. The course also includes information on NC laws while on the water such as alcohol consumption while operating a motor boat, which is the same legal limit as driving your own vehicle .08. North Carolina Wildlife can procure a field sobriety test and the driver can be arrested based on boating while intoxicated. BWIs will take several factors into consideration.

Safety First While on the Water

Okay, we all know life jackets are not flattering and they may mess up that golden tan, but they are required for anyone under the age of 13. Children must always have a life jacket on whenever the vessel is underway and not tethered. Life jackets need to be properly fitted for children based on chest size and weight, which means zipped up and buckled. As a test, you should be able to grab and pull up on the shoulders restraints and the vest stay on.

According to the US Coast Guard’s Office of Boating Safety, babies should not travel on a boat — including rowboats, kayaks, motorboats, and sailboats — until they are at the appropriate weight to wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD). It should go without saying, strollers and car seats are not water buoyant!

Don’t forget the Type 4 throw cushion or donut which needs to be readily accessible at all time, not under the seats. These quick throw floatation devices can be a life saver, literally.

Control the Throttle

We love our jet skis on High Rock Lake, but there are a few big takeaways to remember. Jet skis do not have brakes or seat belts. They are controlled by a throttle, but the wind and water conditions play a huge part in how we handle the vehicle. Therefore, safety lanyards (the kill ignition switch) and safety wristbands are mandatory. Jet skis must stay back from 100 feet away from other boat wakes and 50 feet from other water craft sides.

Jet skis are rated by maximum number of riders which includes pulling an inflatable tube. For instance, if the capacity states two people, that does NOT mean two seated on the jet ski and an additional rider on a tube. Life jackets must always be worn if you are driving or riding on the jet ski. All riders on any size inflatable (tube) also must wear a life jacket.

The minimum age to operate a gas-powered vehicle is 14 only if the individual has completed boater education successfully; and he or she drive with a passenger that is at least 18 years of age.

riding jet skis on high rock lake

Light It Up – Nighttime Boating Safety

Taking a twilight cruise on High Rock is great fun, especially when participating in one of our several floatillas during the week (that will be a fun blog with lots of pictures for another time). Lighting is important for others to see you. Every boat needs to have a properly mounted white light that can be seen from 360 degrees. Both red and green lights must be properly configured. Please check them out during the day, before you need them at night.

Know Your Boating Safety Signs

Diamond Shape – alerts boaters to possible hazards

Diamond Cross – designated swim area; boats are prohibited

Circle Restricted – regulated operations; no wake zone by bridges, for jet skis that is under 10 miles per hour

Square Informational – direction, distance, and location markers

Friendly Stops

North Carolina Wildlife will make friendly stops for boat registration and proper decal placement location (hint: not in the exact same location on each side of the boat).

A few notable items: children can not ride on the bow of the boat; the owner will be cited with a misdemeanor fine for careless and reckless operation.

I am confident with this knowledge; a great day on High Rock Lake will be had by all. Take summer by the reins, go out and enjoy High Rock Lake lifestyle. I hope to see you out there. You can’t miss me; I’ll be the one with two Great Danes riding on the boat. And don’t forget there are great options for your dog’s boating safety too.