Lakes and rivers are often full on Memorial Day, as many people get their boats out for the first time. Iowa D-N-R boating law administrator Susan Stocker says the desire to get out on the water is probably going to be higher than normal this year.
“And I do believe based on what’s been happening around Iowa stay at home orders, what have you, I think it’s going to be exceptionally busy,” Stocker says. Stocker says you should continue to follow social distancing rules on the water — and only allow your immediate family in the boat.
“That means the people that you’ve been hanging out with at home. And so, that is one of the key things,” Stocker says. She says when you are at a fuel dock or loading and launching your boat, continue to maintain the six feet social distancing. She says you should stay away from some of the tractional things people do, such as landing on a sandbar and gathering — or doing what’s called “rafting.”
She says that’s when two or three boats tied up together to form a raft. “That is truly discouraged also — because you are not social distancing, you are not six feet apart and you are not staying away from people that you haven’t been staying at home together in the same household,” Stocker says. Stocker says the standard rules still apply whenever you are boating.
“Everybody needs to have a wearable life jacket that fits them in the boat. And we strongly encourage everybody to wear the life jacket,” she says. “Similar to a seatbelt when you are riding in a car — you have no idea when you might be involved in an accident — so having your life jacket on is the best practice.” Life jackets are required to be worn by anyone under 12 when the boat is moving. Stocker also reminds everyone that you can be stopped and arrested for drunk boating.
“The effects of alcohol are greatly increased because you have the wind out there, you have the sun beating down on you, you have the glare of the sun off the water,” Stocker explains. “What’s really, really crazy is that all these individuals are surrounded by water — but yet they are not drinking water — so they are dehydrated also. The effects of alcohol are greatly enhanced.”
Stocker’s final piece of advice is to plan ahead.
“Because everybody is feeling really, really antsy regarding cabin fever — we need to have some patience at the boat ramp. So, make sure that you have all of your items and gear in your boats and ready before you get to the boat ramp to launch,” Stocker says. She says continue to follow the social distancing requirements at the launch area as you start and end the day.