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.