Proper boating safety precautions |

Proper boating safety precautions

Jim Grant/Sun News ServiceLake Tahoe's waters should never be taken lightly, regardless of the activity: boating, swimming, water skiing, wakeboarding, jetskiing, paprasailing, officials said.

Anyone who goes out to play on Lake Tahoe during the summer should consider the following facts: Tahoe is the second-largest alpine lake in the world, and at a depth of 1,645 feet, it also one of the deepest.

The lake’s volume is 39 trillion gallons, and the water temperatures range from 41 to 68 degrees.

Add all that up and one other fact becomes clear, this body of water should never be taken lightly, regardless of the activity is boating, swimming, water skiing, wakeboarding, jetskiing or parasailing, officials said.

“People underestimate that lake,” said Edwin Lyngar, boating education coordinator for the Nevada Division of Wildlife. “It can be very safe ” safer than a lot of lakes ” but you have to keep a few basic safety rules in mind. Watch out for the other guy and Tahoe can be a great time.”

There are a few simple rules to remember when boating on the lake officials said. The rules of the water are similar to the rules of the road: Watch your speed, know the right of way rules, know signals, and of course, don’t drink and drive.

“For whatever reason, we’ve seen somewhat of an alarming increase of drinking and driving among boaters the last couple of years,” Lyngar said, adding that even though there are no laws pertaining to open containers on boats, the .08 blood alcohol level law applies to drivers of boats. “Even if you’ve only had a couple of beers, when you factor in wave action, the sun and the unusual nature of water, all those things conspire to make boating more of a challenge.”

The same care needs to be taken when driving a boat as driving a car, advised Dee Dee Kincade, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard North Lake Tahoe Flotilla.

“So many people worry about their driver’s license, but when it comes to a boat, it’s fair game,” said Kincade, a 21-year resident of Incline Village. “People just need to be careful when they’re out on the lake.”

When the lake level is high from an above-average winter snowpack, more accidents can occur officials said.

“It’s very different,” Kincade said. “Most everyone sees it as a positive thing, and we are thrilled to see the level up, but we are also seeing some problems.”

One warning sign all boaters need to be aware of are caution buoys that mark shallow water areas off shore ” white and designated with an orange diamond in the middle. “The orange diamond means danger,” Kincade said. “Don’t go shoreward of these buoys.”

The purchase of a Global Positioning System (GPS) device is a good investment for anyone who ventures on Lake Tahoe officials said.

Another valuable tip for anyone who goes out on Lake Tahoe is to keep an eye open toward the west, the direction the wind blows from.

“A lot of people don’t realize how the weather at Tahoe can change in an instant, ” Lyngar said. “All of a sudden, you can have two-, three-, even four-foot waves that can be dangerous for a smaller boat, even a 17- or 18-foot boat.”

People who neglect the law on Lake Tahoe are subject to fines, yet Lyngar doesn’t go out with the intent of penalizing anyone.

“We’re not here to give tickets, we’re here to inform and make sure people are safe,” he said.

This is the last in a three-part series in which the Sierra Sun will take a look at summertime recreational safety in Truckee and the Lake Tahoe Basin, both on the water and in the backcountry. Today will look at safety on Lake Tahoe.

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