The sun sets earlier each day and summer is all but over. This 
inevitability prompts many to visit lakes, rivers and streams to get 
in that last weekend of the summer boating season during the Labor 
Day holiday weekend.
    “Our busiest weekend of the year,” said Maj. Shane Carrier, 
assistant director of law enforcement for the Kentucky Department of 
Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Traditionally, Labor Day marks the end 
of the boating season.”
    The crowded conditions common on this holiday weekend make 
observance of simple boating safety procedures vital to a safe 
weekend for everyone.
    The law requires each passenger in a vessel to have a personal 
flotation device, commonly called a lifejacket, readily accessible 
for use. “I cannot stress enough the importance of wearing a 
lifejacket,” Carrier said.    
    He explained that a lifejacket stored in a compartment or stuffed 
under a seat is not readily accessible.
    “You must be able to get to the lifejacket quickly when you need 
it,” Carrier said.
    Sales of paddlecraft such as kayaks, canoes and stand up 
paddleboards are booming, but wearing a lifejacket while paddling is 
of paramount importance for safety.
    “Paddlecraft use is growing by leaps and bounds across Kentucky,” 
Carrier said. “Many paddlecraft users overlook the safety aspect. 
Paddlecraft are slow and do not have a motor. This lulls people into 
a false sense of security. I strongly suggest wearing a lifejacket at 
all times when operating a paddlecraft.”
    Carrier said he sees many stand up paddleboard operators with their 
lifejacket strapped to the front of the paddleboard. “That doesn’t 
work well if you fall over and hit your head,” he said.
    Paddlecraft now line the front of sporting goods, department and 
hardware stores awaiting a buyer.
    “People buy paddlecraft with no training or experience and get in 
over their head, especially in moving water,” Carrier said. “Leave a 
float plan with a loved one and get a dry bag to store a charged cell 
phone on your boat in case you get in trouble.”
    Carrier said the law enforcement division spent many hours this year 
on search and rescue efforts to look for paddlers. “We’ve had quite a 
few misjudge their take out or how long it takes to paddle there,” he 
said. “They must know how long it takes to get the float completed. 
If there is low water and you have to drag a boat over riffles and 
shoals, it takes time.”
    Avoiding alcoholic drinks is one of the smartest safety decisions 
boaters can make. “Drinking in public is against the law in Kentucky 
and our waterways are public places,” Carrier said.
    The combination of hours in the sun, heat and movement of the boat 
can induce a mild stupor called boater’s fatigue. “Alcohol 
intensifies boater’s fatigue,” Carrier said. “This condition can lead 
to poor decisions on the water.”
    Carrier stressed the importance of checking safety equipment to 
ensure it is in good working order.
    A boat with a battery or motor must have a working fire extinguisher 
on board at all times. “Store the fire extinguisher away from the 
engine,” Carrier said. “On some boats with inboard-outboard motors, 
the fire extinguisher is mounted in the engine compartment. If you 
have a fire, you will burn yourself trying to get to it.”
    All vessels over 16 feet in length must have a hand, mouth or power-
operated signaling device such as a loud whistle or boat horn. They 
must also have working red and green navigation lights in the bow of 
the vessel and a steady white light visible from 360 degrees in the 
    Boat operators must display these lights from sunset to sunrise in 
areas where other boats navigate, whether the boat is under power or 
Some boaters mistakenly believe you do not need working navigation 
lights if you only operate the boat during daylight hours.
    Mechanical failures, dead batteries or getting lost can prevent a 
boat from getting back to the dock or ramp before nightfall when you 
must display these lights. Therefore, lights must be in working 
condition no matter when you operate the boat.
    “You need a light at night so you don’t get run over by another 
boat,” Carrier said.
    Each vessel must have a Type IV throwable personal floatation device 
such as a float cushion or ring readily accessible for use.
    “Although this isn’t boating related, we’ve had multiple people this 
year drown from swimming,” Carrier said. “People, especially 
teenagers, try to swim beyond their ability and misjudge the 
distance. Peer pressure can induce them to try to swim across a large 
cove and then it is too late.”
Obey these simple safeguards and make the Labor Day weekend memorable for the right reasons.

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