Local first responders share advice to keep your Fourth of July boat rides fun, safe

Local News

(WFXR) — Whether you’re going out for an afternoon cruise down the James River or planning to take a boat ride to watch the fireworks at Smith Mountain Lake this holiday weekend, first responders encourage you to keep a few safety tips in mind to make sure your Fourth of July on the water is a positive experience.

According to the Botetourt County Department of Fire and EMS, the James River is an extra popular place during Fourth of July weekend. In order to make sure your trip is fun instead of frightening, the department asks you to follow the tips below:

  • Plan your travel route ahead of time.
  • Check for rapids and their classification.
    • If you capsize, do not stand in rapids. Instead, float through them with your feet up and pointing downstream.
    • Wear a helmet when
  • Never go on a trip alone.
  • Check the weather the week before and the day of your trip.
    • If you hear thunder or see lightning, exit the river.
  • Bring along the proper equipment — sunscreen, a first aid kit, water shoes, a flashlight, bug repellent, snacks, and water — and make sure to pack it all in a dry bag for protection.

Meanwhile, you can only enjoy fireworks at night, so for those who want to watch the show from a boat, Smith Mountain Lake Marine Fire Rescue has some advice for navigating the water at night:

  • Prepare ahead of time.
    • Check your navigation lights to make they are in working order.
    • Put a search light or a quality flashlight on board with fresh batteries.
    • Review your route.
      • Think about the channel markers you will pass on the ride home and then mentally check them off as you go.
    • Make sure you know how to turn the brightness down on your marine electronics and your cell phone.
    • Leave a light on at your dock for when you get home.
  • Preserve your night vision.
  • Turn on your navigation lights.
  • Make sure your docking lights are off.
  • Note the different lights around you.
    • Red and green light are boats coming at you.
    • A solid white light is the stern of a boat in front of you.
    • Flashing red and green lights are channel markers.
    • Flashing white lights are shoal markers.
    • There are three sets of flashing white shoal markers between R8 and R12.
  • Remember “Red, Right, Up.”
    • The RED channel markers will be on your RIGHT when you are heading UP the river.
  • Check off the navigation markers as you go.
  • Stay slightly right of center in the marked channels.
  • Stay in the center of unmarked coves.

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