While Boating Wedowee is known for its beautiful lakes and rivers and many people take advantage of enjoying the waterways each year. In the coming weeks more people will be pulling out their boats from winter storage in preparation for summer getaways on the water. We’ve reached out to Coty Brown of the Alabama State Troopers - boat patrol division for suggestions, preventative pointers, common issues on the water, which can contribute to your boating safety and add to your boating pleasure. “A lot of times I am asked does the law require you to have line tied to the throwable,” Brown said. “The answer is no. It’s a smart idea to add some on there just in case, but you will not be cited for not having it on there. “ I’m also always asked about a paddle. This is also not a requirement by law, but always remember the old saying. You definitely don’t want to be up the creek without one.”
Preventative Pointers and Tips:
The best way to avoid me is to obey all safety regulations and laws on the water way. Treat the water way as if it was a roadway and stay to the right of mid channel at all times. Always be aware of your surroundings and be courteous to other boaters.
Most Common Issue on the water:
There are several different issues that have come up in the past few years. It’s hard to say which one is the most common so I’ll just touch base on a few different subjects. People riding with their hips above the gunwales of the boat. I’m seeing a huge issue with people laying on the back cushions of ski boats. If something happens and these people fall off it can possibly be fatal for these people. Also on pontoon boats as well. You have to be seated down inside the boat when it’s in motion at all time. Also when in pontoon boats make sure that you’re inside the railing as the boat is in motion. Underage people operating vessels without a license: Alabama requires that its residents possess a valid vessel license to operate on the waterways in Alabama. A person at the age of 12-13 may get a license but cannot operate unless they have someone at the age of 21 or above with a valid vessel licenses on board with them.
Fourteen and above can operate a vessel in Alabama by themselves with a valid vessel license. Out of state residents may operate on the water ways in Alabama for a total of 45 days with a VALID DRIVERS LICENSE without possessing a vessel license through Alabama. Learners permits are not considered a valid driver’s license. People under the age of 16 from Georgia must take the Georgia boating test before they can operate by themselves in Alabama. They will be issued a card after they complete the test successfully, and they have to have this card with them as they operate. This will be cracked down on more this year and if someone is caught operating a vessel without a license, the guardian will be cited for allowing an unlicensed driver to operate a vessel. Pay close attention to the buoys and markers they are placed in various areas for a reason. Idle speed zones are going to be enforced stricter than ever. If you are uncertain what idle speed is then put your boat in neutral and slowly place it in forward gear. When the boat starts to slowly glide through the water, this is considered IDLE SPEED.
Boaters in Need:
If you ever happen to find yourself in distress while out on the water here are a few tips to remember. Try and flag someone down by waving by arms up high. The boating community is usually very helpful to each other, and will usually help one another when in need. Check with the local marinas. A lot of times they will help you out and can make it to you quicker than I can. Especially if you’re already a customer with them. Don’t be afraid to dial 911. You can also dial *HP. Just make sure to be able to give a good location to where you’re at, and a brief description of what your emergency is (whether you ran out of gas or something else mechanical). We are fortunate enough to have mile markers on this lake, but if you don’t know which river (Tallapoosa or Little Tallapoosa) you’re on, it doesn’t help matters. A quicker response time relies on you being able to tell me a general area so I know where to begin my search. If anyone needs to speak with me directly you can give dispatch a call at 256-357-2309 and leave a message for me. I’ll return your call as soon as I can.
Have fun this year, be safe, and I'll see y'all on the water.
BY Jeremy Wortham
First off, this is not something to panic about, but something to be aware and cautious of.
You’re probably thinking, “here we go again. It’s another one of those gator stories”.
We’ve all heard the stories about alligators on Lake Wedowee, but whether you believe those stories or not is a discussion to be had for another day. But let me tell you about the crocodiles.
Yes, you read right… crocodiles!
Lake Wedowee is full of them. They cover miles of the lake, from the shorelines to the depths. At some point you may have spotted one or even several on the lake but may have never gave it much thought or attention. You may have spotted one floating down the river. You also probably crossed one or drove over one in the bends. And every once in a while you may see a good Samaritan wrestling to rope one so that it could be towed and tied off at the waters
While you’re enjoying your time at the lake, you need to be looking for these crocodiles ( or hazards ) that may exist. They come in all shapes and sizes and will show no mercy. Crocodiles are any potential water hazard. Some of the more common hazards are:
FLOATING DEBRIS; It’s common to see trees that may have blown over get washed down stream with other debris. Sometimes these bigger objects lurk just below the surface making them appear to be smaller than they are. So always scan the water ahead to ensure you don’t drive over a log or Crocodiles. Always be on the look out for Floating debris can be a hazard for boat motors and towables. Parts of Lake Wedowee have tree tops also known as stickups. Many are below the waters surface when the water is at full pool.
As the water level drops this fall, pay particular attention for stickups…pull a towable over something that could puncture your tube or even rider.
SHALLOW POINTS; there’s shallow points on the lake with some being marked by hazard buoys. You can find these shallow points in the bends of the lake but fair warning they can make their presence known in a split second on the depth finder.
OTHER BOATERS; Alabama requires state residents to take and pass a boating test prior to being able to operate a vessel or watercraft but doesn’t require out of state residents to have a boaters license to navigate a vessel on the water. I’m not saying that non licensed drivers are unsafer but it could raise the question on boating knowledge. Boats not using navigation lights while driving or anchored, boats using docking lights for running lights, boats crossing the wrong direction when meeting head on, among other things. Over the last year and a half there’s been 3 boating accidents on Lake Wedowee with 1 being alcohol related. That’s 3 boating accidents that were reported.
NO PFD’s; I was swimming at the lake one day this summer and I was swimming no more than 20 feet away from the boat when I had found myself exhausted in that short distance. This was unusual because I’ve been swimming regularly for the last 21 years and never had this problem. We tend to forget that at any given moment we can exceed our physical abilities such as how far we can swim or tread water, the possibilities of our bodies becoming fatigued and shutting down from exhaustion, cramping, black outs, heart attacks, and any other medical condition or natural event that could leave us vulnerable to a potential drowning. Over the last year and a half there’s been 7 drownings on Lake Wedowee. I encourage everyone to consider wearing a floatation device when entering the water. It’s better to have it on and not need it than need it and not have it on.
Remember, crocodiles are out there, some easily noticeable while others are lurking in disguise. Think safety! Look for what’s out of place or has changed since you have last been on the lake because things are always constantly changing. Currents may flow faster at certain times of the day, water levels may be higher or lower, holiday traffic brings more boat traffic which results in over populated areas and increased size in waves, a child may not be properly wearing their life jacket, an oncoming boater may be driving carelessly or not paying attention, or maybe there’s an issue with your boat or equipment that’s not working properly that could have been brought to your attention if you did a walk through.
Hopefully you’ve had a wonderful year thus far and thanks for being apart of our home that we call Lake Wedowee.
I wonder if there’s a boat behind him. Use common sense when operating in unexpected weather conditions, such as using your navigation lights and slower speeds when its foggy.
Life Jackets must be zipped and buckled to be worn.
EDITOR IN CHIEF