Enjoy the waterways, but know how to be safe

    Surviving a holiday weekend on the water is no accident. It requires preparation. It requires thinking. It requires taking fun seriously.

Beaufort County has seen too many sad endings over the years because we are surrounded by water that attracts people who might not be used to its power and who might be concentrating more on fun than on the serious business of safety.

Ocean swimmers, please be leery of rip currents. Don't go out too far. Always swim in pairs. Know what warnings are in place before getting in the water. Adults should not take their eyes off the children they are responsible for watching.

If you find yourself in a rip current, don't try to swim against it back to shore. Swim out of the current, parallel to the beach.

Wear sunscreen. Stay hydrated -- and alcohol will not do the trick.

Anyone in charge of a boat must be sober. South Carolina now has stiff penalties for boating while under the influence and for good reason. Driving drunk kills on the water just as it does on land. And it immediately impairs the sharp observation and sound judgment required to keep a boating party safe.

A good rule of thumb on the water is "know before you go." If you're a passenger, know who is in charge and whether you trust your life to that person. If you're in charge of a boating excursion, know, review, memorize and practice this sampling of safety tips from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources:

  • Fill out a float plan (available to download at www.dnr.sc.gov/boating/forms/pdf/DNRfloatplan.pdf). Leave it with a responsible individual.
  • Check the weather.
  • Gather all lifesaving devices. Make sure they are in good condition and the correct size for all passengers (especially children).
  • Check the fuel and the battery charge.
  • Make sure lights are in good working condition on the boat and trailer.
  • Put the plug in.
  • Carry a cell phone.
  • If you don't know the aids to navigation and buoy system in this area, don't get in the boat.
  • If the boat capsizes, stay with the boat.
  • Always watch your wake, particularly in no wake zones and near docks.
  • Slow down.
  • These things sound simple, and they are. But ignoring simple advice can quickly lead to life-threatening complications on the water. It happens too often.

    Visitors also should pay attention to laws designed to protect wildlife. Unfortunately, these common-sense requirements do not come as second nature to many people:

  • Do not feed dolphins.
  • Do not feed alligators.
  • Do not remove live creatures from the beach, and that means sand dollars and conch shells.
  • Do turn off oceanfront exterior lights at night to help nesting and hatching sea turtles.
  • Beaufort County's greatest attribute is its waterways. They are beautiful, refreshing and fun to explore. But they also can be killers to those who do not follow simple precautions and those who get in a boat with someone who is drinking alcohol.

    Enjoy the water, but please do your part to make this a safe Fourth of July weekend. Safety is no accident.