Andy Baker says awareness is key when out on his boat.
PADUCAH, Ky -
Memorial Day weekend is a popular one for water activities, and those familiar with rivers and lakes know how dangerous it can be.
In 2013, there were 560 boating deaths, 22 of which were children. That's why the Coast Guard is taking charge with boating safety week.
The Coast Guard says life vests are life savers. They're required for children age 12 and under and for anyone driving a boat, including those more experienced, to make sure everyone has a safe, enjoyable time.
Fisherman Andy Baker says he's always been drawn to the water. It's one of the reasons his friends call him "Mister Insanity," a nickname emblazoned on his boat.
But Barker says on the water he's nothing but respectful to the current and fellow boaters. He's seen how dangerous the river can get and even fallen out of his boat, Bullet, a time or two. "You better be aware of your surroundings," he says. "Things do happen."
U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Kyle Coleman says there are ways for boaters to prevent trouble: wear life vests, drive safe speeds, and, most importantly, "boat sober."
"You're getting impaired just as much driving as boat as you are a car," Coleman warns.
With so many out on the water, Coleman says the Coast Guard's goal isn't to end anyone's day, but to make sure people are safe on the water. He says the river is "just a beast. It really does a lot of weird things with the water. You get caught in one of those currents, you'll be underwater."
Coleman said it's important to keep in mind that higher water levels pull more floating debris into the river, and to watch out for that debris.
The Coast Guard has a new app that you can use to call and notify them if you run into trouble or see something on the water. That includes anything unusual you see or if you need help. They always have someone on call. To search for the app in the app store, search for "Coast Guard."