Heading to the lake or river? Here are some safe boating tips

ST. LOUIS (KMOX)-With Missouri reopening and warmer weather on the way, it's a safe bet that a lot of people who have been holed up due to the coronavirus will be heading to nearby lakes and rivers.

So, the U.S. Coast Guard is kicking off Safe Boating Week by reminding folks what it takes to have a safe excursion.

Lt. James Long says the first thing you'll want to do is make sure the body of water is open and then prep your vessel to make sure it's ready to go. "Your boat's been in storage all winter," he says. "It could have residual water left in it. It could need an oil change. Make sure the maintenance has been performed and ready to go."

One of the first things to check, he says, are the boat plugs. "A lot of boats have boat plugs that allow the water to leave the boat. Make sure the boat plug is back in the boat so the boat doesn't take on water."

Long says you should make sure the boat's radio works and all your gear, including life jackets, are ready to go. "Missouri law requires boaters to have U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets on board and accessible for each occupant of the boat," he says. " 

In Missouri, every child under seven has to wear a life jacket unless they're in the cabin area of a houseboat or cruiser. Illinois requires anyone under 13 to wear a jacket while on board any craft under 26 feet while it's underway, unless they are below deck in an enclosed cabin or on private property.

Two weeks ago a St. Louis area man was killed at the Lake of the Ozarks when a boat exploded after refueling. Long says to avoid that, make sure fumes don't accumulate in the vessel while gassing up. "Make sure everything is well ventilated and there's plenty of air flow to keep those fumes from building up to cause an explosion." He says if you spill any fuel into the water, you're required to report it to the National Response Center

Before hitting the water, Long suggests you file a 'float plan', telling someone where you're going and how long you'll be gone, and make sure your phone is charged. "A lot of cases, the search could be initiated sooner if we knew where and when to look." 

For more tips you can check out: USCGBoating.org         SafeBoatingCouncil.org        USCG.mil