After a winter that seemed like it would never end, summer has finally come to the Black Hills. With the hot weather and sunshine come an abundance of outdoor activities such as picnics, parties, and trips to the lake. Rapid City is conveniently placed near beautiful lakes such as Pactola, Custer State Park, and Angostura. But before you head out to make the most of your summer, make sure to remember these things while boating in South Dakota.
BOATING IS ABOUT COMMON SENSE, SAFETY, AND THE LAW
1) Safety Equipment– Just as you would make sure your passengers are safe in a car, passenger safety in a boat is equally as important. Make sure you have all required safety equipment on board before you sail off for the day. Lifejackets, fire extinguishers, navigation lights, emergency whistles, and personal flotation devices are all important to ensure everyone on board can enjoy their day in safety.
2) Flotation Devices- No matter what type of boat you’re in, a properly sized life jacket is an absolute must for every person on board. This even includes smaller vessels such as kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, and inflatable rafts.
If you’re short on life jackets, there’s a Life Jacket Loaner Program run by Game Fish and Parks (GFP) that can loan them out to you at no extra cost. Check with your local GFP office or look online to see where the closest participating office is near to you.
3) Don’t Overdo It- Always make sure to check the weight capacity of your boat, located on the capacity plate. This tells you how much you can carry, up to how many people can be on your boat at one time, and the maximum horsepower.
If you’re on a vessel under twenty (20) feet in length then you can use this simple rule of thumb to figure out if you’re in the clear to safely carry your passengers:
Number of people = (vessel length x vessel width) / 15
4) Avoid a BUI – Did you know alcohol is the leading factor contributing in recreational boater deaths? As mentioned before, a boat is just like any other vehicle. While it might be fun to relax on the water with a couple of cold ones, make sure you’re still cautious when operating a boat. Just like a DUI, a BUI –Boating Under the Influence—is taken very seriously. South Dakota state law prohibits operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or any controlled drug or substance to a degree which renders the person incapable of safely driving or operating such a boat. (South Dakota Codified Law § 42-8-45).
Much like driving, the legal limit for operating a vessel under the influence is .08. If you plan on drinking, make sure you have a designated driver ahead of time.
5) Keep it Safe—While not legally required to operate a boat in South Dakota, a boater’s safety course is never a bad idea. There are a lot of factors that play into boating, and it never hurts to be prepared. Below is a list of course options available to you in South Dakota:
Boat Ed South Dakota Online Course
Boat US Foundation South Dakota Online Course
Boater Exam South Dakota Online Course