With the popularity of kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, rowboats and sailboats, it seems the size of many vessels is getting smaller. In case you haven’t seen a standup paddle board, it’s become a favorite with the fitness crowd.
These vessels have a lot in common. First, they’re relatively inexpensive to purchase and do not require gas to operate. They’re easy to transport from home to lake, are lightweight and fit on car-top racks or in the back of a truck. They can be launched from almost anywhere on the shoreline that isn’t private property.
Fun and exercise, however, do not come without risks.
The fact that these vessels have a low profile and are relatively small makes them extremely difficult to see in open water. For that reason, brightly colored hulls, multicolored paddles and sail patterns are a must. The prudent sailor should stay out of harm’s way by only plying the calmer waters of back coves and bays. Journeying in the main channels and other busy waterways is extremely risky and should be avoided, regardless of skill level.
Safety equipment is of utmost importance, regardless of state or federal regulations. The most important, of course, is a personal floatation device (PFD) that should be worn at all times by everyone onboard. Also, an often overlooked item is a sound-producing device (whistle or horn) used to signal your position and/or intentions.
As with larger vessels, in the event one should capsize or fall overboard, staying with the craft is considered safer than trying to swim ashore. It’s easier to see a hull on the water’s surface than it is to see a person floating or swimming to shore.
It is prudent and worth repeating to remind boaters that the skipper of any recreational vessel is responsible for his own safety and that of his passengers and crew. The U.S. Coast Guard encourages everyone to wear a life vest (PFD), never drive under the influence, successfully complete a boating safety course, and have the vessel checked annually for safety.
Tips from Capt. Gus
Blue and green rafts, kayaks, canoes and other small vessels are difficult to see in open water. Orange, yellow, chartreuse and red are more visible and should be the colors of choice when renting or buying.
Hot spots of the week
White perch are schooling in 20 to 30 feet of water. Spoons, Sabiki rigs and crappie minnows are good baits to use. Low water levels have caused bass to congregate along deep banks with fallen trees or in areas where several boat docks are present. Catfishing is good, particularly for those targeting blue cats on cut bait near the dam, where a summer striped bass fish kill is progress. Night fishing for crappie is excellent around bridges and lighted boat docks.
Surface water temperature varies by location, but is mainly in the high 80s and low 90s in open waters not affected by power generation. The water level is about 4.7 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and 3.7 feet below on Mountain Island Lake.
Free safe-boating class: “How to Navigate Lake Norman, Day or Night” will be held at The Peninsula Yacht Club, 18501 Harbor Light Blvd, Cornelius, at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9. Becky Johnson and I will cover “Understanding LKN’s Channel Marker and Buoy System,” “How to Avoid Shallow Water,” “10 Most Dangerous Spots” and “Interpreting Lake Maps.” For information, call Ashley at 704-892-7575.
Free fishing seminar: “Interpreting Sonar and Down and Side Scan Images” will be conducted by Jake Bussolini at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, Mooresville, at 6:30 p.m. Sept.16. This interactive session will also examine the best ways to catch fall hybrids, stripers and spotted bass. For information, call 704-658-0822.
Gus Gustafson is a freelance writer: Gus@lakenorman.com