Boat safety tips for busy Memorial Day weekend

Police say watch out for debris and don't drink and drive

As the unofficial start to summer kicks off this Memorial Day weekend, the La Crosse Police Department is determined to make it a safe one.

It’s going to be a busy weekend on the Mississippi River, but with high water on the river this year, it’s adding some extra concern. The river is close to flood stage and there is a lot of debris floating around.

“Memorial Day weekend typically starts the boating season so it will be busy,” said Craig Teff, a police officer with the La Crosse Police Department.

When you live on the Mississippi River, a long extended weekend plus beautiful weather often leads to fun in the sun.

“People get out on the water to have a good time. That is why they are doing it,” said Capt. Jason Melby with the La Crosse Police Department.

To ensure everyone has a good time this weekend, the La Crosse Police Department will be out on the river.

“La Crosse has a need for a river patrol; we’ve got well over 21 miles of navigable water,” said Melby.

Police officers will be looking for general safety issues.

“Every passenger in a motor boat is required to have one wearable life jacket,” said Teff.

With the high water, a slow, no wake ordinance has been issued near developed shore lines.

“The definition of no wake is operating as slow as possible but still maintaining steering of the boat,” said Teff.

Along with no wake orders, officers are warning boaters to keep their eyes open for others.

“It’s not like driving on a road way where traffic comes from certain directions,” said Teff.

Police also said you should be on the lookout for debris.

“You can imagine if there were a lot of waves out here how hard that would be to see,” said Teff.

And last but not least, police said you should never drink and drive.

“Once you get out in the sun like this and you are on the river, I don’t think people realize how quickly they can become intoxicated,” said Melby.

It’s a long weekend and the police just want to make sure it’s a safe one as well.

“Plan ahead, have the safety equipment that you need and everyone will have a good time,” said Melby.

If you do not have enough life jackets for everyone on your boat, you can borrow them from the Loaner Life Jacket Station at the West Copeland Boat Landing. It’s part of the program called Kids Don’t Float and it allows you to borrow different size life jackets for a day and then you can return them at night.

One last thing to consider is if you’re out at night–make sure the lights on your boat are working so that others can see you.