The July 4th holiday is the peak of the summer boating season on the Santee Cooper lakes. Following are some tips to help ensure everyone has a safe and fun time.
Call 1-800-92-LAKES for general lakes information. If you plan to travel through the Pinopolis Lock, the number to call is 843-899-LOCK. Please call ahead. The lock is typically open from half an hour after dawn to half an hour before dusk. The locking procedure takes between 20 and 45 minutes, so keep in mind the hours of operation. Showing up at the last minute may result in having to wait until the following day to pass through the lock. The lock is closed during thunderstorms or rough-water conditions. Visit our website for further information on lock operations and safety guidelines.
Before you head out, DNR recommends you check the weather forecast and let someone know where you’ll be going and how they can reach you. You should also inspect your personal floatation devices (PFD) to make sure they are in good condition and sized properly for your passengers. Check your fuel and your battery, and make sure the lights on your boat and trailer are working properly.
Once you’re near the water, wear your PFD at all times; if you have children in your party, ensure their PFDs are fitted and secured properly. Know your boat’s capacity. Do not overload it. Avoid standing in your boat.
Observe all markers and buoys, especially the no wake zones around marinas and congested areas. Use marked navigation channels whenever possible, and stay alert at all times. Floating logs on the surface and neutrally buoyant logs just below the surface can drift into channels. Never tie off to channel markers.
Use extreme caution when navigating outside of marked channels. The same underwater stumps and rocks that provide cover for the lakes’ abundant marine life can pose a hazard to the unfamiliar boater.
There’s plenty of room on the Santee Cooper lakes for everyone to enjoy them. Be courteous. Fishermen should shy away from anchoring in open channels. Water-skiers should not spray fishermen and other boats. Do not boat or ski through swimming areas. When pulling a skier, allow a safe distance from shore. Always have a second person aboard to watch the skier.
If you don’t know how to swim, wear a PFD. Never swim alone, no matter how experienced you are. Swim only in designated areas. When outside of these areas, stay close to the shore and keep an eye out for boats and skiers. Do not dive. Changing water levels make it hard to judge lake depths even in areas you know, and you could strike objects hidden beneath the water. If you’ve been drinking alcohol, don’t swim.
Do not operate a boat if you’ve been drinking. Alcohol dramatically increases your chances of being involved in a boating accident, and boating under the influence is an offense punishable by fines and loss of your boating privileges.
Always be mindful of the weather. Check for boating and weather advisories. Storms and high winds can come up quickly, creating dangerous conditions. Head for a shelter at the first sign of bad weather. If you’re caught in rough water, stay low in the boat and head into the waves. Wear your PFD.
Laws on the Santee Cooper lakes are enforced by DNR. In case of an emergency dial 911 or call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-922-5431 (*OGT or #OGT from a mobile phone) or use Channel 16 VHF-FM Marine Radio. Various agencies also monitor CB channel 9.
Local sheriff’s departments can be reached at the following numbers:
- Berkeley Co. Sheriff’s Dept. – 843-719-4412
- Calhoun Co. Sheriff’s Dept. – 803-874-2454
- Clarendon Co. Sheriff’s Dept. – 803-435-4414
- Orangeburg Co. Sheriff’s Dept. – 803-531-4647
- Sumter Co. Sheriff’s Dept. – 803-436-2774
Visit www.santeecooper.com for additional boating safety tips, and remember to be smart and safe on the water.