MISSISSIPPI SOUND (WLOX) - Check your safety equipment, and be careful on the busy water ways this Fourth of July weekend. That's the message to boaters from the Department of Marine Resources.
DMR Marine Patrol officers did some boat safety inspections on Thursday.
"Marine Patrol, we're going to do a quick check," said Officer Patrick Levine, as he approached a fishing boat in the Mississippi Sound. "If you have any lines on the back side, we're going to come on the other side of the vessel."
"Four life jackets, what about fishing licenses?" asked Levine."Y'all got y'all's fishing licenses?"
The only mark against these fishermen is the condition of their fire extinguisher.
"It's time for a new one," instructed Levine. "Make sure you get one."
"I'll get one as soon as I go in," the fisherman promised.
This holiday weekend will be one of the busiest of the year for boating. For the DMR, safety is the key concern.
"Number one, you have to have a wearable life jacket for every person on board. It has to be the right size. More important than that, if you're going to choose not to wear it, make sure it's readily accessible. You want to be able to get to it in the event of an emergency," said Levine.
"Marine Patrol, going to do a boat water safety check," Levine advised, as his patrol boat approached a pair of fishermen returning to shore.
These fishermen are also well prepared with life jackets and working flares. But guess what? They had another fire extinguisher issue.
"You see how the meter is on red?" asked Levine. "Okay, it's no good. You need this thing, and it's not going to work for you. So you need to make sure you get a new fire extinguisher."
"Absolutely," the boat owner promised.
With heavy boat traffic this weekend, boaters are also encouraged to be courteous and patient.
"When you're out in a congested area, if there's a lot of boats in the area, slow down. We don't want to wake somebody, throw somebody off a boat or damage somebody else's boat. Slow down. Take your time, and enjoy the day," said Officer Patrick Webb.
On the final inspection everything checked out, including the fire extinguisher.
"Is it good, is it on green?" asked Levine. "Yes it is. Thank you much."
Officials have one final warning: Watch the alcohol. It's the leading contributor to boating accidents, and it's illegal to operate a boat if you're under the influence.