Now that summer is in full swing many in Wyoming will hook up to the boat and head for the lake. Boating, when done safely, can be an enjoyable family experience. However, boat owners need to take boating safety seriously or that enjoyable day can quickly turn to tragedy.
The following are some Wyoming Watercraft Regulations that boat operators must be aware of.
Each passenger on a boat must be provided a personal floatation device (PFD - a “life-jacket”) that fits the person and is U.S. Coast Guard approved. All children 12 years of age and under must wear a PFD when the watercraft is underway. A life jacket designed for an adult will not work properly and is not legal for a child as they are too large and likely to come off if the child is thrown into the water.
In addition to a PFD for each person, all boats 16 feet and over in length must carry a Coast Guard approved Type IV throwable device. Even though it is not required on boats less than 16 feet in length it is good idea to have a throwable device on all watercraft. Flotation devices are of no use in an emergency if they are buried under coolers or in storage compartments so keep them accessible so they can be used at a moment’s notice.
Other safety equipment required by Wyoming Watercraft Regulations depends on the size of the boat being operated. A sound producing device is required on all boats and a working fire extinguisher is required on some vessels. Even when not required it is always a good idea to have a working fire extinguisher along with a tow rope, a set of oars or paddles and a bailing bucket on your boat.
Boaters should never mix alcohol and boating. Drinking alcoholic beverages and operating a boat is just as dangerous as drinking and driving an automobile. Law enforcement officers responsible for enforcing boating laws and regulations are always on the lookout for people boating under the influence (BUI) of alcohol and drugs.
Two other items that boaters need to check before they head out is their boat registration and Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) decal.
All motorized watercraft must be registered for the current year before they can be launched and all watercraft, including non-motorized watercraft, must have a current years AIS decal.
Wyoming’s AIS program is in its fifth year, yet many folks are unaware of the AIS program especially for small non-motorized kayaks and sailboats. Boaters are also reminded that watercraft coming into Wyoming from another state must have an AIS inspection before the boat can be launched in Wyoming.
The majority of boaters are law abiding people that want to have a good time and enjoy the opportunities Wyoming has to offer. Having the proper boating safety equipment and not drinking alcoholic beverages while on the water will add to that enjoyment.
Remember, if you purchase a new watercraft or are just getting it in the water for the first time this coming holiday weekend, check your safety equipment before you launch. Launching your watercraft and then checking for your appropriate safety equipment can lead to disaster in a hurry.
And remember to put that plug in.