Outdoors With Craig Robbins

For recreational boaters, being on the lake the first couple of times is like driving to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving. Remember the learning curve that we all experience after the first snow? For folks that don’t spend that much time at the helm, it can be the curve.

Proper maintenance is important. You don’t want to be the one being towed into a dock. This likely means more use and wear and tear on the boat. Some boats may have been recently launched and simply are not up to snuff yet. Regardless, now is the time to address the things that still need fixing, with extra attention paid to the electrical (battery, charging system, navigation lights) and the fuel system (fuel lines, fresh gas). With boat trailers, check tires for wear, bearings for grease and be sure all lights work.

The Christmas tree-light effect we see each July 4 is exciting, but can be dangerous. Each year after the fireworks shows end and boaters head home, traffic on lakes such as Chautauqua is very busy. Having spent many a July 4 watching fireworks on Chautauqua Lake, I know first hand the boat traffic is at an all-time high.

Most folks keep their lights on, as you are supposed to while at anchor or floating during the evening hours. Often times the batteries on your boat will run down.

Don’t run down the battery playing music all day and be careful to avoid anchor-line entanglements. On the way home, post extra lookouts, don’t take shortcuts and be patient at the launch ramp. Powerboats need to watch their wakes. With nightfall, the chance of accidents increases, so it’s a good idea to have everyone in lifejackets. If you’re concerned about getting on-the-water or roadside assistance for a broken down boat trailer or tow vehicle, check out www.BoatUS.com/towing.

Consider the extra-guest factor. Many boating guests are likely to be children, but some vessels won’t have the right-size lifejacket aboard. It’s not only a law, but all youth need to have a properly fitted lifejacket on.

Also, smaller boats are prone to overloading. Leaving just a precious few inches of freeboard to prevent wakes and waves from coming aboard is important.

Just be sure alcohol doesn’t become a safety issue when you are on the water. Remember, the same rules of the road are enforced on water as on land. Waiting to drink until you safely get back home ensures everyone will have a good time.