The Boating Season is Here

by Dr. Andrew Cox

April and the subsequent warm weather months ushers in the boating season on area lakes and waterways. Beginning with this month through the fall months, our waterways are crowded with pleasure boaters and anglers. Boating safety becomes important to reduce or minimize potential boating and other water related accidents and mishaps.

On Georgia waterways during 2016 there were a total of 116 boating related accidents. These included 69 injuries and 19 deaths during the 2016 boating year. Unfortunately, some of these accidents involved the use of alcohol and drugs. Many of these mishaps could have been avoided through knowledge of safe boating procedures or nonuse of alcohol or drugs while operating a vessel.

Do you know what to do in the following boating scenarios?

  • How do I operate a boat when I see red and black buoys within the waterway?
  • What do I do when I see striped black and white buoys midstream within the waterway?
  • What do various flags in the water mean?
  • How do I operate my vessel when approaching other on-coming boats?
  • Do I slow my boat down when operating my boat adjacent to anchored or stopped boats?
  • How close can I operate my vessel near to or within swimming areas?
  • What safety equipment is required on my boat?

These questions and other boating safety and operation tips and procedures can be answered fairly quickly and easily. A useful reference for Georgia boat operators is the Handbook of Georgia Boating Laws and Responsibilities. This reference is available through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources ( Alabama has as a similar publication available through These handbooks will answer the above questions plus some that you didn’t know to ask.

As a boat operator on the increasingly crowded waterways in Georgia and Alabama, you may want to consider taking a boating safety or boat operator course. These courses are available in live course with an instructor or on-line course instructional formats. These are available to accommodate your schedule and learning needs. Some are free or charge a minimal fee. Some potential boating safety or so-called boating education providers are listed below:

  • Georgia Department of Natural Resources.;; These websites describe online and live boating education programs available within the State of Georgia
  • United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. Lists various boating education programs available through this branch of the U.S. Coast Guard
  • United States Power Squadron. Another source of boating education programs
  • Several non-governmental providers of boating safety and education programs are available to include and These sources include on-line boating safety courses.

Check out some of the above sources. Useful information is provided for non-powerboat operators using Alabama and Georgia waters. Information useful to angling, kayak and canoe enthusiasts is available. You should also be aware of the licensing and boating operation regulations in effect for both Georgia and Alabama. These regulations can be reviewed through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Review of the above resources, being observant, and anticipating possible safety hazards while operating a boat can keep you and your boating passengers from being a statistic as described earlier in this article. Hope you have a safe and pleasurable boating season.

Author’s Note: Dr. Andrew Cox is a contributing writer to outdoor publications and newspapers. His writing interests specialize in angling and travel, human interest, and general fishing technique oriented topics. He is a member of the Georgia Outdoor Writer’s Association. He has been fishing the waters of Georgia, Alabama, and north Florida for over forty years. Dr. Cox financially supports his fishing habits as Professor Emeritus at Troy University, Phenix City, Alabama. He may be contacted at