Safe summer boating on Tahoe-Donner lakes
Summertime in Tahoe is a breath of fresh air, especially for sailors who wait nine months of the year for three months of slicing through Tahoe’s transparent waters.
But summer in Tahoe also brings congestion, including boating traffic, making it important for sailors to abide by boating regulations to avoid turning a summer paradise into a danger zone.
Regulations specific to Lake Tahoe include a 600-foot no-wake zone bordering the shoreline that provides a safe area for kayakers and swimmers.
Boaters should watch for white buoys with a black diamond and orange writing that stipulates “danger shoreward.” The 28 regulatory buoys warn boats of rocks near shore and other areas to avoid.
And any boat with a two-stroke engine but no fuel injection is prohibited on Lake Tahoe because of the trail of oily residue the engines discharge into the water.
Donner Lake in Truckee requires that all boats travel in the same, counter-clockwise direction.
Public Education Officer Jay Schmidt of the Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 11-01 said each boat must be equipped with a life jacket of the appropriate size for every person on board.
“And the ‘of appropriate size’ is important,” said Schmidt.
All children that are 12-years-old or younger are required to wear a life jacket while boating.
The rules for boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol mirror the laws for driving a car under the influence, that is, the over-21 driver’s blood-alcohol content may not exceed the .08 limit.
Schmidt warned that alcohol’s effect when consumed on boats is greater and quicker than on land due to the effect of sun, wind and motion on the water.
So, recreational sailors are urged to designate a sober captain.
Schmidt also suggested designating a lookout and to be considerate of other boaters at boat ramps and in the water, especially before and after fireworks shows, when the waterways are congested.
At the firework displays, boats must respect a 1,100-foot safety distance from the barges, and anchor lights must be displayed while anchored.
Navigation lights must function at all times, even if they will not be used. The same goes for kayakers during the evening, who must carry a white light to prevent collisions.
For novice Lake Tahoe boaters, expect more wind in the afternoons.
“You can expect that in the afternoon, the waves are going to be much rougher than in the morning,” Schmidt said.
He also recommended a Lake Tahoe boating map created by the Coast Guard that is geared towards boat renters and people who aren’t familiar with the lake.
Available at boat rental locations and marina facilities, the map will help those who need to radio for Coast Guard assistance.
“The Coast Guard and special assistance people have a real problem with locating people who don’t know where they are,” Schmidt said.