Many guests at our Birch Trail Resort believe the best part about summer in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, is the boating! While having fun on the water, it's important to follow the guidelines set forth by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to ensure everyone arrives back at their cabins safely.
Boats, just like cars, are registered, monitored and can be ticketed by local law enforcement. Before heading out, you are expected to understand the laws of traveling by water.
For your convenience, we've compiled a small list of important safety tips to get you familiar with boating up north, but please visit the DNR's website for a complete list of regulations and links to register your boat.
For your safety, please observe the following:
EVERYONE NEEDS A LIFE JACKET
This goes without saying. Every boat needs to have on board the same number of life jackets as people. If you're traveling with 4 friends, the boat must have 5 life jackets. If the boat is 16 feet or longer, there must also be a lifesaving flotation device on board.
Not only are you not allowed to possess alcohol while on the water, just like on the road, you cannot have alcohol in your system either. As you can imagine, this rule is especially challenging for the DNR to enforce on the waters of a vacation destination like Minocqua, but do understand, it is an important one in preventing accidents. So, save the cheers for after boating!
DO NOT OVERLOAD THE BOAT
Every boat has a weight capacity that must be considered before setting sail. Typically, this will be found near the captains chair. If the sign says max. occupancy is 6 people, and you have an extremely heavy cooler, consider the cooler a person and safely board only 5 people. Having too much weight can cause the boat to take on water...not good.
CHECK THE BOAT LIGHTS BEFORE LEAVING THE DOCK
Pretty self-explanatory. Also, make sure you turn them on as soon as the sun starts to set.
OBSERVE BOAT TRAFFIC SIGNS
Slow-no-wake means you must slow your boat down enough that you don't create white cap waves. You will find this traffic sign by most passage ways, piers, docks, and boat slips. This is to minimize the movement of the docked boats to prevent damage. Other signs may indicate "shallow" or "underwater rocks" - avoid boating near those areas.
USE FRIENDLY BOAT ETIQUETTE
Up north, many locals and guests spend a significant part of their day on the water. It's important to know some boat etiquette to keep the water traffic flowing smoothly. For starters, Minocqua is very small-town friendly, so it is customary to wave as you pass by another boat (this one's just for fun!). Be sure to wait patiently near the mouth of a channel to allow boats to enter one-by-one in order of arrival. As a courtesy, slow down when passing any non-motorized watercraft such as a paddle boat, paddle board, canoe, or kayak to prevent them from tipping over.
KEEP PASSENGERS SAFE
Sudden stops, waves or wind gusts can cause the boat, and all the passengers in it, to move unexpectedly. Be sure to observe on-craft signs that may indicate where passengers should and should not sit. On a pontoon boat, it is strongly recommended to sit within the railings.
LET SOMEONE KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING
It's always a good idea, on the water or not, to let someone know where you are going, especially if you are going by yourself. Give them a rough idea of when you will be getting back so they can check up on you. If you're not back within a reasonable time, instruct them to call the local authorities. In a life-threatening situation, you will be very glad you took this step.
DO NOT LITTER
People come from hundreds of miles away to enjoy the pristine natural backdrop of the northwoods of Wisconsin. Nothing curbs the enjoyment of riding on a clear lake more than seeing trash floating on the water. Not only is this unsightly, it is also damaging to the wildlife in the area. Do not litter and if you see trash, please stop and pick it up to dispose of it properly. Mother nature, and all our guests, will thank you!
For a complete list of boating safety tips, regulations, boat landings, maps, and more, visit the Wisconsin DNR website.