you're reading...

Cornelius News

Lake Norman: Beware traffic, inexperience, alcohol, speed

There was a fatal tubing accident in late June. Photo: WXII-12

Aug. 10. Ignoring safe boating rules can quickly put an end to a fun outing on the water,

“Pulling a water skier or tube adds tremendous complexity for the boat operator,” says Denis Bilodeau, a town commissioner. “Be safe by assigning a spotter as well as checking life vests for a proper fit,” he said.

Currently the town attorney is looking at state boating statutes to determine whether there is the ability to tighten boat rental requirements to make the lake safer for everyone.


There have been a variety of accidents and collisions, with two deaths on the lake so far this year, according to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

Boating accidents range from collisions in marinas…

“Operator was cruising/docking/undocking when V1 struck V2 moored to dock besides V1. Operator panicked and gave too much throttle and hit V2 causing damage to both vessels.”

…to broken legs:

“Operator was wake/surf jumping, cruising, made left turn within 100 ft to rear of another vessel hitting the wake and was ejected; broken leg”

…to tragedy:

“Occupant was tubing, jumped from tube to swim towards the vessel, struggled and drowned.”

Accidents are preventable

The NC Wildlife says alcohol is often involved, as well as operator inexperience. At the same time, few boaters are wearing life jackets, even though they’re more stylish than ever.

PWC rules few and far between

Personal water craft are fast and fun, but there are few rules around towing a tube full of people.

NC Sen. Natasha Marcus is working closely with the Lake Norman Marine Commission to enact legislation that would require anyone being towed by a boat or personal watercraft to wear an approved life jacket.

Right now, there’s no requirement for a “spotter,” someone whose job it is to keep an eye on the skier or tuber behind the boat, so the captain can focus on where he or she is going and not steer into another boat or a dock.


Morris Sample, executive director of the Lake Norman Marine Commission, says the current law is absurd. “We’re trying to get it changed…to require life jackets while tubing or skiing,” he said, but it takes time. Legislation stalled last year—and this year.

The proposed legislation would mandate life jackets for anyone being towed behind a vessel, as well as either a spotter or a panoramic rear-view mirror. It would also stipulate that tubing and skiing end by sundown.

Senate Bill 267 has not been given a hearing, Marcus said.

Bilodeau has been the safety chair of Big Day at the Lake, where youth in Big Brothers Big Sisters are treated to a day on the lake by Boat Hosts, many of whom are in Cornelius.

‘Recipe for disaster’

“Don’t be that operator that pulls an over-crowded tube at high speed while looking over your shoulder…a true recipe for disaster,” Bilodeau said.

The Peninsula Yacht Club will conduct a free personal watercraft youth safety seminar on Saturday Sept. 18, from 9 am to 12:30 pm in the Clubs Commodore Room. Register online at www.peninsulayacht.com/cnf.