Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit Continues Focus on Boating Safety Issues

(Walhalla, SC)————————————- The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit patrols the waters of Lake Keowee, Lake Hartwell and Lake Jocassee on a regular basis to continue to build partnerships with our citizens and visitors who enjoy recreation on the waters of Oconee County.

Besides building relationships, another of the Marine Unit’s primary functions is boating and water safety. And based upon some recent observations, the Marine Unit, along with our law enforcement partners with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, will be focusing on some specific safety issues next week (August 3rd thru August 8th) while on patrol.

“Some of the observations that were made that will be of major importance to the Marine Unit and SCDNR were issues that were observed during dusk or during the nighttime hours,” says Master Deputy Jimmy Watt, Public Information Officer of the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office. “Observations have been made of boats with no lights on, boats pulling skiers and tubes past the legal time in which they are allowed to do so, as well as a couple of kayakers who were barely visible as a boat came close to them as it traveled around a point. We have also received reports regarding camping and camp fires on the islands of Lake Keowee in particular. The Marine Unit, along with our partners with the Department of Natural Resources, will be focusing on these issues next week while also continuing to educate our citizens and visitors on how to stay safe while enjoying the lakes and waterways of Oconee County.”

“Boating and water recreation is an important part of our economy, tourism and our life here in Oconee County,” says Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw. “Oconee County is almost an island in regards to that fact that you have to travel across a body of water in many cases as you enter and exit the county. We want our citizens and visitors to enjoy their time boating on the lakes of Oconee County. However, we want our citizens and visitors to enjoy water recreation on our lakes safely and our Marine Unit stands ready to make sure that continues to be the case. We are grateful for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources partnering with us to make this possible.”

With that in mind, the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit wants to remind our citizens of the following safety measures so everyone can be safe and enjoy the lakes of Oconee County:

General Safety:

– All vessels must have an appropriately fitting Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device for each person on board.
– Operators and riders of PWC’s* must wear their PFD.**
– All vessels that have closed compartments where flammable or combustible materials are stored, or that have a closed living space must carry a Type B fire extinguisher on board.
– Vessels less than 65.6 feet in length (including PWC’s*) must carry on board a device that produces sufficient sound to announce intentions and positioning.
– Vessels 16 feet or longer must contain one Type IV PFD** (Throwable device) and it must be readily accessible.
– Children under 12 years of age must wear an appropriately fitting USCG*** approved PFD* while on board a vessel less than 16 feet long.

Nighttime Safety for Vessels < 39.4 feet:

– Sidelights: Red light indicates a vessel’s port (left) side and green light indicates a vessel’s starboard (right) side.
– All-Round White Light: can be seen by others vessels from any direction.
– Skiing/Wakeboarding
– Illegal between sunset and sunrise.
– Must wear a USCG*** approved PFD.*
– The towing vessel must have:
– An additional person to observe the person(s) being towed OR
– A wide-angle rearview mirror to observe the towed person(s) at all times.
– Persons 16 years or older may operate any boat or PWC** without restrictions.
– Persons younger than 16 must be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old OR
– Have completed a SCDNR**** boating safety course.

*Personal Watercraft
**Personal Flotation Device
***United States Coast Guard
****South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

Submitted by Master Deputy Jimmy Watt, OCSO PIO