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Water Safety Week: Boaters prepare for busy season on West Michigan lakes

Elliot Grandia takes a look at how families can stay safe on their boat
Posted at 6:50 AM, Jun 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-01 11:57:24-04

GULL LAKE, Mich. — It’s day one of Water Safety Week on FOX 17 Morning News, and today it’s all about boater safety.

Mike Gallagher, the Treasurer with Michigan Lakes and Streams Association has tips to make sure your family is enjoying all West Michigan lakes safely, starting with what you need before you even leave the dock.

“Well it’s really important that you take a personal flotation device,” Gallagher said.

“Every boat needs to have one, so you can toss this to somebody who’s in danger on the water.”

Gallagher says every passenger has to have a life jacket, even if they aren’t wearing it.

Other items needed are fire extinguishers, an anchor, snacks, water, and a cell phone in case your boat gets stranded.

Once on the water, there’s a couple quick reminders if you are pulling tubers or water skiers.

“The law says that you have to have a driver in the boat plus a passenger who is looking at who is being towed,” Gallagher said.

“If somebody falls, they tell the driver and he stops the boat right away, turns around and goes and gets who they were towing.”

If the watcher happens to miss a passenger falling off a tube or wakeboard, the passenger can use a ski to point into the air to help them be more visible.

Furthermore, boats should stay level, so the boat driver can have a clearer view of the lake in front of them.

“The law is that you’re supposed to cruise in a counterclockwise direction, '' Gallagher said.

“If you need to cut across the lake, that’s no problem as you can go in any direction you want in the center of the lake.”

Finally, draining your boat properly is important if you are transporting your boat from one lake to the other. Making sure to clean, drain and dry will help keep invasive species from spreading to other lakes.

Take for instance in Gull Lake, zebra mussels exist and can be problematic if transported other inland lakes. Three thousand visitors boat on the lake on average in a summer, and without proper care, boating in other lakes could be costly.

“Zebra mussels are pretty expensive and can cost tens or thousands of dollars each summer for lakes that get invaded by them,” Gallagher said.

It's also up to the lake’s residents to pay to have the weeds pulled.