How to stay safe on the water Memorial Day weekend

Posted at 4:49 AM, May 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-24 09:36:59-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Temperatures are soaring, but the water is still cool. It's a perfect recipe for a Memorial Day weekend on a boat.

"We expect to see a whole lot of boaters out here," Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency district boat officer Josh Landrum said. "A whole lot of people coming out here to enjoy the lakes and getting their boats out probably for the first time this season."

If it is the first time, there's a lot to do.

"When people are first getting their boats out, preparation is key," Landrum said.

Landrum says that preparation includes having a working fire extinguisher, checking navigational lights, renewing boater registration and licenses and keeping enough life jackets on board.

"The appropriate life jackets that fit the people that will be on the vessel," Landrum said.

Once boaters are underway and enjoying alcohol, they need to have a designated driver.

"Many times whenever we do have fatal boat accidents or serious injury boat accidents we find that alcohol was a contributing factor in those accidents," Landrum said.

Landrum said before heading out, all boaters should review the state's laws, especially those renting from out of town.

Boats won't be the only vessels filling up the waterways. River Queen Voyages expects to be busy, after a rocky start to the season.

"As anyone who lives in Nashville knows, it’s been raining pretty much the whole beginning of the season," River Queen Voyages owner Annie Klaver said. "I think this is the first nice Memorial Day in a couple years, so we’re really looking forward to getting people out on the water."

Kayaking has become more and more popular in recent years, but the rules of the water are different than on a motorized boat.

"We make sure everybody is outfitted and safe before they get on the river," Klaver said.

Unlike on a motorized boat, the Army Corps of Engineers requires kayakers wear a life jacket at all times when they're out on the water.

"We give a kayaking 101," Klaver said. "We let them know how to use the paddle, how to steer and, of course, this is a Class 1 flat water river, so it’s an easy river to start out on."

While boaters can have a designated driver, cracking open a cold one on a kayak is a no go.

"Drinking is not allowed in the Metro Parks," Klaver said. "What we do is pick you up downtown and shuttle you up river and then you can kayak downtown and then, Broadway is right there and you can go have all the fun and all the drinks that you want."

Even with the barges and the General Jackson, Klaver says there's plenty of room for everyone to enjoy the river and stay safe.

River Queen Voyages offers kayak trips seven days a week. If you want to go out with friends renting, but have your own kayak, they'll shuttle over personal kayaks. They remind kayakers to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and something to keep phones dry while out on the river.