It’s a Beautiful, but Potentially Dangerous Time of Year on the Lake

About a month ago, around 9:30pm or so, responding to a call, and noticed a law enforcement vessel spotlighting the shoreline. My call was canceled, and I was able to attract the searcher’s attention. They were looking for a boy that had become separated from his father while out on their PWC’s and was reported missing a couple of hours before. I decided to help with the search as the local authorities have pretty limited resources for the lake, particularly at night. Before I go on, in this case, the boy was found, well after midnight, by law enforcement officials, and the situation ended well. The news stories indicate that the search involved multiple agencies on the water as well as a helicopter with IR imaging, and of course, a TowBoat captain.
There was a moon intermittently covered a bit by scattered clouds, so visibility across the water was decent, but it still took a spotlight to light up the shoreline enough to see if there was a stranded vessel. There was a chill in the air, which bit harder as the night wore on, and got me thinking about the topic of this entry.
Fall is a wonderful time of year on the lake. Temperatures are warm enough to enjoy an outing during the day, the lake is less crowded, and the leaves are starting to turn making the scenery even more breathtaking than usual. By all means, go out and enjoy Lake Lanier in the fall, but please be prepared for the unexpected, and understand what you’re getting into if you run into trouble out there.

Fewer Good Sam’s (Good Samaritans)

When school is back in session, dark comes earlier, football season arrives, and baseball playoff season is kicking off, the number of people on the lake drops dramatically. There are fewer people out there to find you should something go wrong and your vessel become disabled.

Evening Temperatures are Lower

Our temps that night dipped into the 50’s. Next week, the lows will be in the 40’s. That doesn’t sound like much of a problem, and it isn’t, unless you left the dock dressed for warm daytime temperatures and didn’t bring warmer clothes because you “knew” you would be home by dark. Pack a sweat shirt, just in case.

A Working VHF Radio can be a God Send – Keep it Turned On

Your cell phone can reach out to your friends, and of course to TowBoatUS Lake Lanier if you have our number (you do have our number on your boat, right?), but your VHF radio can reach out to anyone on the lake with their radio on. Keep your radio on, and tuned to channel 16. You aren’t the only one out there that might need a helping hand. TowBoatUS Lake Lanier monitors channels 16 and 10 24 hours/day.

Have an Anchor Ready to Deploy

We’ve said this before, but in the fall, this tip becomes even more important, as it is a season of increased wind for us here on Lake Lanier. Your anchor is the best defense against drifting ashore while waiting for assistance.

Make Sure You Have a Working Flashlight Onboard

Many of our evening and overnight calls are for boats that have depleted their batteries over the course of the day, due to running stereos, or leaving cabin lights on. We’ve had a number of folks that were difficult to find as they had nothing to signal us with. A flashlight is a great way to let us know where you are at night.

Aeriel Flares

Aeriel flares can be seen over great distanced on a dark night, and are likely to be spotted by shore side residents as well as folks in marinas. They don’t take up much space, so carry a good supply. Fire two at a time, 15 to 30 seconds apart, and you are more likely to be spotted. The first will catch someone’s eye and cause them to look in the direction of the light. By the way, please don’t fire flares in celebration as it is the equivalent of “crying wolf”. The responder that takes time to respond to your party, might skip the next one assuming it’s another false alarm.

Be Prepared and Enjoy the Lake!

With the tips above, and a little extra preparation, you can enjoy Lake Lanier with peace of mind, during what is perhaps the most beautiful time of year on the lake, with confidence that your fall leaf cruise won’t turn into a miserable wait for help on a cold, dark evening.

Have Fun, Boat Safe