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Memorial Day Weekend Means Many Boaters Out For First Time This Season

Statewide Iowa — The Memorial Day holiday weekend is upon us. And it’s expected to be a busy one, despite COVID-19.

The Iowa DNR is reminding people to obey all laws and rules — that includes physical distancing guidelines — while enjoying Iowa’s outdoor recreational activities.

DNR Director Kayla Lyon says “Everyone is antsy to get outside and enjoy the beautiful Iowa natural resources after being cooped up all winter and more recently because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This weekend will provide a great time for families to get out and explore what our great state has to offer, but we caution everyone to do so safely and responsibly.”

This week has also been Safe Boating Week in Iowa. Whether you are canoeing a stream, fishing on a state lake, kayaking or boating on the waters of Iowa, the DNR says the simple steps of wearing a life jacket, taking a safe boating course and not operating your boat when impaired greatly improve your chances for a safe and enjoyable day on the water.

Here are some tips from the DNR for safe boating:
· Wear your life jacket – it floats, you don’t.
· Alcohol and boating don’t mix. Wind, sun glare and heat can enhance the effects of alcohol hindering the operator’s ability to make decisions.
· Check for open ramps or water hazards before heading out.
· Be patient; boat ramps will be busy.
· Before leaving the house, check the trailer lights, wheel bearings and the hitch.
· Make sure there is a current fire extinguisher and horn/whistle, a wearable life jacket for everyone and a USCG approved flotation device onboard.
· Anyone 12 and under on a vessel underway must wear a life jacket.
· File a float plan with a friend, including your destination, expected time of return and type of boat.
· Inflatable life jackets are lightweight, comfortable, and USCG approved. Wear it.
· Take a boater education course available online. It has valuable information and many insurance companies will offer a discount on boat insurance.
· Familiarize yourself with Iowa’s boating laws.
· Slow down, watch for other boaters or personal watercraft, have patience and most importantly, have a designated operator who will stay clear of any alcohol
· Drain plugs and other water draining devices must be removed and/or remain open during transport to avoid spreading invasive species. Anglers leaving with fish are recommended to put them on ice, whether in a cooler, a bucket or a live well (plug must still be removed and/or opened).
· The top two safety violations in Iowa are having inadequate life jackets and operating too fast and too close to other vessels.

Even outdoor recreation looks a little different in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Boaters should also practice the following physical distancing guidelines:

· Limit the people aboard your boat to people in your immediate household. Gather in groups of 10 or fewer.
· Stay at least six feet away from other people.
· Maintain safe distance at the fuel dock, boat ramp or loading up at the marina.
· Wash hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer regularly.
· Don’t raft up to other boaters or pull up onto a beach too close to someone else.
· Avoid any unnecessary stops between your home and the lake to avoid contact with others outside of your immediate family.
· Pack food, water and other items from home that you may need, as restaurants and marina stores may not be open.
· Stay home if you or someone in your household is sick.

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