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Boating fun begins with safety lessons

With spring’s better weather, Mahoning Valley boat owners have spent the last few weeks getting their watercraft ready for water sports and other recreation at the area’s reservoirs.

But before riding the water, boaters must go through some boating safety courses mandated by the state.

EDUCATION COURSES

An Ohio Boating Education course is taught by certified instructors who review such topics as knowing your boat; safety habits before launch; operating safety rules; legal requirements, water sports; and boating emergencies.

This class fulfills Ohio’s mandatory boater education law requirements.

A class met for eight hours Saturday at the Lake Milton Fire Department, and another meets 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 4 at Great Lakes at Outdoor Supply, 14855 N. State Ave., Middlefield.

A test is administered at the end of the day. The class is free, but preregistration is required by calling 330-235-0030 or 440-466-8400.

At Lake Milton, a man who works for a company that installs and repairs docks said his crews have had a busy spring, signaling perhaps the lake may be crowded with watercraft this summer.

Brian Martin Sr., who is employed by Kelly’s Marine, says his three-man crew works all day on the lake using a pontoonlike watercraft . The company website says it provides service at Lake Milton as well as Lake Erie, Berlin Reservoir, Lake Mohawk, Lake Tomahawk, Roaming Shores, Portage Lakes and Seneca Lake.

TRAINING GRANTS

Meanwhile, several local groups have received Ohio Department of Natural Resources grants for training in boating safety.

In Mahoning County, Youngstown State University received $22,154.

“The safety training provided by local grant recipients strengthens our efforts to make sure Ohioans enjoy a fun and safe boating experience,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said.

This year’s recipients include several local school districts that will be providing boating safety classes to their students in environmental science and recreation programs for the first time, according to a news release.

The grant program also supports local purchase of safety equipment, such as kayaks, life jackets and trailers.

The grants are funded by Ohio’s recreational boaters through the Waterways Safety Fund, which is comprised of a share of the state motor fuel tax, watercraft registration and titling fees, and funding from the U.S. Coast Guard.

RULES ON

THE WATER

Ohio requirements for safety equipment are based on type of boat, type of propulsion, length of boat, boating activity and the age of the boater (when it comes to required life jacket wear). Local rules or ordinances may exist that are more strict or require additional safety equipment. It is the boater’s responsibility to be aware of these local requirements.

For more information, ODNR has available for free the Ohio Boat Operator’s Guide, a summary of boating laws and rules, that can be downloaded at the ODNR website or obtained by filling out a form on the website. It contains information such as:

• Before boating, your vessel must be titled properly, if required, and registered. A boat title is similar to an auto title. Both provide proof of ownership. Like an auto title, boat titles are obtained from any county title office. A boat requiring a title may not be registered until a title is issued in the new owner’s name.

Sailboards, kiteboards, paddleboards and belly boats or float tubes are exempt from Ohio registration and titling laws.

No person is permitted to sell, purchase or otherwise acquire any of the following without a certificate of title: Outboard motor of 10 horsepower or greater, watercraft 14 feet or greater in length, watercraft less than 14 feet in length with a permanently affixed mechanical means of propulsion of 10 horsepower or greater.

• Under Ohio law, no person shall operate or permit to be operated any vessel under 18 feet long with a child less than 10 years of age on board unless the child is wearing a personal flotation device. The PFD must be U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable, in good and serviceable condition, of appropriate size and securely attached.

Be sure to check the U.S. Coast Guard approval label before purchasing a life jacket. Not all life jackets are suitable for all uses or all people. The label will tell you the weight and chest size limits, plus any age restrictions for that particular life jacket. It also will tell you what water activities the life jacket is designed for, such as water skiing or riding on a personal watercraft. Some life jackets are not designed for weak swimmers.

• No person shall operate or permit the operation of a personal watercraft unless each person on the watercraft is wearing a personal flotation device. A personal watercraft is defined as a vessel fewer than 16 feet in length, propelled by machinery and designed to be operated by an individual sitting, standing or kneeling on the vessel.

• No person shall ride or attempt to ride upon water skis, surfboards, inflatable devices or similar devices being towed by a vessel without wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable PFD specifically designed for water skiing.

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