By Kendall McGee | May 28, 2021 at 6:43 PM EDT – Updated May 28 at 7:28 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – One common trend we’re seeing at the tail end of this pandemic is an increase of new boaters.
Dealers cant keep up with the demand and NC Wildlife officers confirm they’re also seeing an increase in boat registrations.
Wildlife officials saw a 13 percent increase in new boat registrations last year and an additional 10 percent increase in the first few months of 2021. The flood of new drivers also comes with safety concerns.
“There’s an influx of new boaters out there,” said Master Officer David Sellers with NC Wildlife Resources Commission. “They’re not aware of all that hazards out there, the sandbars. A lot of new boaters are not aware of navigational aids, the symbols and buoys out there in the waterways, and the rules of the road.”
That lack of knowledge is also leading to accidents, some of them serious.
Sea Tow received more calls than ever before in 2020, and so far, they think this year will shatter those records.
“We are going to definitely see more calls this year for sure,” said Jon Geiss of Sea Tow. “Bad gas is very common, battery jumps, people running aground — that’s very common. With a lot of tide swing around here, our waterways are pretty narrow as well, there’s a lot of opportunities, especially at low tide, to run aground.”
Neither those issues, nor the holiday weekend crowds, are keeping people off the water.
“Want to get out here early, before everyone else does, but definitely being out here is my goal,” said boater Caleb Rodas.
“I’m really thankful that the wildlife and the sheriff’s patrol will be out because they’ll be needed,” added another boater, James Halls.
”We just want everyone to slow down and look around before you make any sudden movement, and constantly be aware of your surroundings with that increased traffic,” said Sellers.
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