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Nov. 20, 2018
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Keep safe on the lake

By Pamela A. Keene
 
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources regularly patrols Lake Lanier as part of the organization’s mission of safety and law enforcement. Apparently, their work is being noticed.
 
“I was on the lake on Saturday afternoon and evening and again on Sunday and noticed four separate incidents of the DNR pulling boats over for boaters using their “docking lights” and their navigation lights at night,” said Chuck Kelemen, vice commander of US Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 29, based on Lake Lanier. “It’s dangerous to use your docking lights while underway at night, because they are too bright and can potentially blind oncoming boaters.”
 
Proper lights at night include the red and green side navigation lights, that should be run starting around dusk. If a boat is longer than 39.4 feet, an all-around white light is also required, or both a masthead light and a stern light.
 
Here’s a summary of the must-have items required on board for boaters: 
 
  • Approved life jackets for all people aboard the vessel. Children under at 13 must wear their life jackets unless they are below deck.
  • A photo ID. A copy of a Georgia Driver’s License is acceptable.
  • Your current Georgia DNR registration card, plus the numbers should be displayed on both sides of the bow of your boat.
  • A Type 4 throwable cushion that’s easily accessible.
  • A fire extinguisher in good working order.
  • Boats more than 26 feet long must display at least one oil discharge warning sticker and a “no Dumping of Trash” sticker.
  • If the boat has a head, the pump-out log must be kept aboard, and the state diamond-shaped sticker must be displayed on the port side of the vessel in front of the Georgia annual sticker.
  •  Battery terminals must be covered.

Both the US Coast Guard and the US Sailing and Power Squadron offer free vessel safety checks periodically throughout the boating season. They also offer educational and boating safety classes.
For more info, visit the groups’ websites at www.safeboatlanier.org for the USCG Auxiliary and at www.atlantasboatingclub.com for the Atlanta Sail and Power Squadron.


Recent deaths on Lanier put carbon monoxide safety into focus

One missing oxygen atom can make the difference between life and death. Carbon monoxide (CO) is known as the silent killer. It is an odorless, colorless gas that when inhaled for an extended period of time robs the human body of life-giving oxygen. It is sometimes confused with carbon dioxide, which is naturally present in the air we breathe. 
 
In June, a couple camping overnight on their boat died from this highly toxic gas that’s produced as a result of combustion of carbon-based fuels. When engines or other carbon-fueled motors or appliances are left running without being properly vented, CO can build up. 
 
“Some of the most common sources are engines, generators, space heaters and cooking ranges,” said Chuck Kelemen with Flotilla 29 of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary based on Lake Lanier. “Exhaust leaks, the leading cause of death from CO poisoning, that discharge into a boat and into enclosed areas are very dangerous.” 
 
Mooring your boat too close to a dock or another boat can also increase your chances of CO poisoning, especially if you’re downwind from the source. Good ventilation is a key to being protected.
As a safety precaution, Kelemen recommends installing a marine carbon monoxide detector. Similar in operation to a smoke detector, it monitors levels of CO and will sound a loud siren when it reaches moderate levels. 
 
“Like a smoke detector, it’s important to ensure that it’s in good working order and to regularly change the batteries,” he said. Be sure you have it checked periodically as well.” 
 
Here are other tips for avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning:
 
  • Properly ventilate your boat – open windows and hatches to allow fresh air to circulate.
  • Have your exhaust/ventilation system inspected regularly – listen for leaks and check each joint in the system for discoloration, stains, carbon build-up or water stains. Clear any obstructions or restrictions, repair any punctures or leaks. Seal gaps in exhaust system doors, hatches and access panels and make sure the engine room, if you have an inboard, is sealed as well. 
  • Do not anchor, beach or moor your boat near other vessels that are idling – when an engine idles, there’s a danger of increased CO from that vessel.
  • Avoid the boat’s transom or spending prolonged time around the swim platform – these are  common places where CO may pool. 
  • Be aware of symptoms and take them seriously – severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, confusion and fainting can be indicators of severe CO poisoning. Lower levels of CO poisoning can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea and slight headaches. If you feel these symptoms move above deck to get to fresh air.
 
“Low levels can also be dangerous around water because it can lead to drowning,” Kelemen said. “If you feel symptoms, spend some time getting fresh air before swimming or participating in other water sports. If you’re not feeling well – it may feel like food poisoning or the flu – don’t put yourself in further risk. Also, always wear a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket when you’re around the water, or moving around on your boat, even if you’re a strong swimmer.”
 
Kelemen  also warns of the dangers of teak or drag surfing behind boats because it increases the chance of CO exposure.
 
“Investing in and installing a CO detector and having your vessel’s exhaust system inspected regularly can save your life,” he said. “Isn’t it worth a few extra minutes?”

Posted online 6/29/18

 
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