LAKE MARTIN, AL (WSFA) - Alabama marine police are gearing up for the Memorial Day weekend on state lakes.
Lake Martin is no exception. Five troopers will be patrolling the waters. While being on the water is fun, there are certain laws boaters must follow. For example, a 13-year-old can be certified to steer a boat in Alabama but that person must be WITH someone who has a vessel license who is at least 21 years old. There is a reason behind the law.
"Some people think it's like driving a car and it's not. There are no brakes on a boat, no divided highways, no lanes, no stop signs, so there is an inexperience factor. A lot of times that inexperience is what contributes to an accident," said Alabama Marine Senior Trooper Ty Ray.
Fisherman Dave Hoefflicker remembers all too well the close call he had on Lake Martin a few years back, a near collision with a jet ski.
"We made sure we let them know we weren't too happy about it," Hoefflicker recalled.
Too close for comfort. Hoefflicker had no idea at the time whether the skier was drunk or careless. Either way, this is the very thing Marine Police Trooper Brian English worries about as he and four other troopers get ready to patrol Lake Martin this weekend.
"Obviously not boating under the influence and people not paying attention," said English.
The marine police have five new boats, 24-footers powered by twin engines but they're not the fastest on the water which brings up another point; getting from point A to point B won't necessarily be quick should there be an emergency. Remember, Lake Martin is huge, 44,000 acres.
"There is no such thing as a floating ambulance. We may not be close to you. It will take us a little bit to get to you," English said.
Seventeen people died on Alabama waterways last year, more than a hundred crashes. This year, six people have died so far on the waters across the state. And so the message is pretty clear; no texting and boating and no drinking and boating. Safety is the name of the game.
Hoefflicker himself intends to stay away from the lake this weekend, because an estimated 10,000 boaters will be on the water. That means Lake Martin will be busy and so will both Marine Troopers Ty Ray and Brian English.
Memorial Day is said to be the busiest of the three major summer holidays on the lake.