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Groups gather at Lake Lanier to promote boating safety

POSTED: May 19, 2013 12:27 a.m.
Nat Gurley/The Times

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Ranger Craig Sowers tells 6-year-old Isabella Emerson how to toss a throw-rope through a wooden cutout of a struggling swimmer Saturday at Sunset Cove on Lake Lanier Islands. "We teach children to reach, throw or row, but never go," Sowers said. "It's dangerous to try to rescue someone by swimming out - better to throw a rope from shore or row out in a boat." Sowers was manning the corps' booth set up at the beach and dock area for Boating Safety Awareness Day.

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In anticipation of the summertime increase in lake recreation, the Lake Lanier Association held a Boating Safety Awareness Day Saturday at Lake Lanier Islands resort.

In addition to providing information, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary was on hand to conduct complimentary vessel safety inspections.

“This is for all types of water and boating safety, and basically it’s to increase awareness of the issues,” Executive Director Joanna Cloud said. “That’s probably the sole purpose of this type of event, is to let people know about the issues and some of the resources that are available to them.”

As lake recreation from Memorial Day on increases, hammering home safety points becomes more important — particularly with increased traffic from Lake Lanier’s full pool status, organizers noted.

“It makes a big difference. You’re going to have a lot more traffic this year,” said Joe Edwards of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. The Coast Guard has boats on the water from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Edwards said there was good news that comes with a full pool, however.

“On the good side, you’ll have a lot less hazards as far as when the water is down, and islands start to appear through the lake,” he said. “Boats will run aground. It can tear a hole in the hull. And if you’re cruising, besides the damage to the boat, you can actually throw people from the boat.”

Cloud stressed how life changing simple safety measures can be, citing a case that thankfully wasn’t a tragedy but had potential to be.

“We had an issue two months ago. We had a capsized johnboat on Lake Lanier: a dad, a mom, a 5-month-old baby girl and a 5-year-old boy, and the kids were not in life jackets,” Cloud said.

Kim Martin, coordinator of the Safe Kids Coalition based in Gainesville, had information that largely targeted families with younger children.

“There aren’t lifeguards, so proper supervision is key — it’s up to you to watch your kids,” Martin said. “And if a life vest doesn’t fit them, it could slip off. I’ve done demonstrations where the child puts their arms up, and I can pull the life vest clear off. And with gravity pulling kids down in the water, and life vests pulling up, it’s crucial that they fit correctly. Parents shouldn’t buy-up, so to speak, as a cost-saving measure so that their kids will grow into life vests.”

She also stressed that although adults and teens 13 and over aren’t required by law to wear life vests, kids look up to their parents.

“Be good role models. It’s like wearing a seat belt — kids watch what you do,” Martin said.

A portion of the gate fee proceeds for the event was donated to the Lake Lanier Water Safety Alliance to help it continue efforts in making Lake Lanier safe, Cloud said.


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