It’s tough to believe, but Nebraska has more miles of streams and bodies of water than most states. The presence of so much water must be the reason there are so many Nebraskans who own boats. They come in many shapes and with a variety of propulsion devices, ranging from paddles for canoes and kayaks and powerful inboard and outboard engines that can push boats at high speeds with many people on board and skiers towed behind.
This spring, as Nebraskans are about to launch the 2021 season, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is urging boaters to keep safety the priority.
The rule that belongs above all others is to always wear a life jacket. Leaving a life jacket tucked away under the lazarette won’t do a bit of good if there’s an accident.
Wear your life jacket and make certain it’s properly strapped and fastened. Anyone under age 13 must wear a life jacket on the water — it’s the law.
Game and Parks suggests that boaters can reduce the risk of incidents and help ensure a safe and enjoyable day on the water. Follow these suggestions:
Before Launching: Ensure your boat is in good running condition. Get the boat registered and, if a nonresident, purchase an Aquatic Invasive Species sticker on Game and Parks’ website. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Paddlers of kayaks or canoes should physically inspect their planned takeout point to make sure it is accessible.
Legal Operators: Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1985, who operates a motorboat or personal watercraft in Nebraska must have successfully completed the Nebraska boating safety course. Anyone operating a motorboat or personal watercraft in Nebraska must be at least age 14. Information about boating regulations is available in the 2021 Nebraska Boating Guide at OutdoorNebraska.gov/guides.
Avoid Alcohol: When it’s hot and boaters are dehydrated, they can become impaired with less alcohol than motor vehicle drivers. Boating Under the Influence is a criminal violation and is enforced actively.
Safety Equipment: Carry onboard all the required safety equipment, including life jackets, throw cushions, fire extinguishers and bailing devices.
Be Alert About Surroundings: Look around for other boats, personal watercraft, swimmers, stumps and other hazards. Speeds in excess of 5 mph are prohibited if within 30 yards of any other vessel, swimming area or dock. If paddling a kayak or canoe, be aware of possible debris under the surface or under bridges.
Watch the Weather: Storms can pop up quickly and turn conditions ugly on the water.