Should boat renters take a safety course?
by Staff Writer
by Josh Carpenter
HUNTERSVILLE – The Lake Norman Marine Commission is considering implementing a mandatory boating safety class for boat renters after some high-profile injuries this summer on Lake Norman.
The N.C. Senate passed a law in 2009, requiring all boat owners younger than 26 to pass a safety course sponsored by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.
Boat renters, however, are not required to take the course. In fact, there are few regulations governing safety for people who rent boats, even those who have no experience helming such a vessel.
“Everyone who passes the ... course goes through six or seven hours of training with an exam at the end,” said Lake Norman Marine Commission member John Marino. “With the way the bill reads for rentals, you can go to a marina or boat rental agency, and you don’t need anything.”
Marino said the idea for more safety on boat rentals stemmed from a late June incident in Mooresville when a woman got entangled in the propellers of a boat, captained by a man who had rented it earlier in the day. Doctor’s eventually had to amputate the woman’s arm because of damage she sustained from the blades.
Dennis Franklin Allen, who was captain of that boat, was charged with negligence in the incident.
Marino said boat captains should be held to the same standards are motorists.
“You must have a driver’s license to rent an automobile,” Marino said. “If you’re driving down N.C. 150 and see a car coming towards you, it’s your belief that the person driving that car has a license.”
Dan Stone, owner of Carolina Boat Rentals in Cornelius, thinks adding a safety class could potentially harm business.
“People come from out of town and rent houses on the lake for a week,” Stone said. “That’s a big business for us to take the boat over to the house for them. If those people are under 26 and they come down here on vacation, they’re not going to have time to take a boater safety class.”
The rental companies should be in charge of doling out the safety classes because they could tailor the lessons to the specific boat being rented, he said.
“Just because you get a boater’s license, it might not qualify you for just any boat,” Stone said.
Marino said lake commissioners had considered putting safety classes in the hands of each company, but in the end, board members didn’t think it would be sufficient.
“I’ve thought about that, but I think safety trumps anything else,” Marino said. “Some companies give a five-minute safety course, but we just don’t think that would surpass a six- or seven-hour boating safety course.”
Russ Klein, chairman of the vessel safety committee with the Lake Norman Sail and Power Squadron, said he teaches a safety class each month.
“I think it’s sufficient for first-time boaters,” Klein said. “We normally have about 40 students each month.”
Marino proposed the idea to the marine commission at its July meeting following the Mooresville incident, but he said the lake board will not likely decide anything at the next commission meeting on Sept. 12. Officials need to work out details of any new rule.
“There’s been some talk that it (the class) would be mandatory for any age, but we haven’t decided that yet,” Marino said.
If approved, the proposal wouldn’t take effect anytime in the near future, Marino said.
“This definitely wouldn’t happen before the lake season is over,” Marino said. “It would probably happen next year sometime.”
Want to go?
The Lake Norman Marine Commission meets next Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. at the Charles Mack Citizens Center, 215 N. Main St., Mooresville.