By Stefanie Bainum
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) – Over 400,000 people are expected to travel across the Palmetto State this holiday weekend. But if you're dropping anchor instead of hitting the road, officials say you still need to be prepared.
The U.S. Coast Guard says it expects thousands of boaters to set sail over this holiday weekend and officers will be watching Lowcountry waterways closely.
"For the most part we are going to find a lot of inexperienced boaters, we are going to be looking at people intoxicated. Those two things don't mix, that's going to be our focal point right now," said Eric Tuttle of the U.S. Coast Guard.
In 2011, officials said there were around 98 recreational boating accidents and 19 deaths in South Carolina. The holiday weekend increases the risks with more traffic and drinking.
"Have fun, be respectful, remember bad things happen and be prepared for it," said Tuttle.
Having the most fun could mean being the most prepared. Coast Guard officials say there are things you need to make sure you have on board, before you even start your engine.
"What we're looking for in a life jacket is to make sure it is U.S. Coast Guard approved, that will be stamped on the inside of every life jacket," said Tuttle. "A horn, a whistle, anything that is going to draw attention. Another thing we are looking for is a fire extinguisher."
Tuttle says if you find yourself in an emergency situation call 911 immediately and they will be dispatched. Also, be sure to set your boat radio to VHF Channel 16. That's the emergency frequency which is monitored by the Coast Guard at all times.