Boating hasn't hit full stride in Utah yet, but beginning Memorial Day weekend boats will start flooding Utah's recreational areas and won't slow down until after Labor Day.
While most lakes and reservoirs are open all year, boating season in the state corresponds to two main factors - school schedules and weather. Thus, the large majority of Utah boaters are just beginning to get their boats out of winter storage and tune them up for the upcoming season.Lake Powell is still the granddaddy of recreational areas for boaters who take a week or two to spend in the southern Utah sunshine. Places such as Utah Lake and Willard Bay are busy early in the summer and again in late summer-early fall. During the hottest days of summer, most folks along the Wasatch Front prefer to flee to the mountains and try places such as Pineview, Rockport, East Canyon, Echo, and Deer Creek reservoirs.
Boaters fall into several categories. Many go boating purely for water skiing. Other boaters are fishermen only. Then there are those who like to boat for the sheer enjoyment of it.
In Utah, you can get anything from a 10-foot aluminum fishing boat to a 45-foot cabin cruiser.
According to Joe Birklacich at Duce Marine, the outboard motorboats are big this year. "We've seen a great resurgence in outboards this spring," he said.
Birklacich says one reason for the resurgence is that outboards have recently made great strides with their lightweight construction, automatic oil-injection and power steering. Most of the outboards sold are in the 16- to 18-foot range, he says.
In the traditional "sport" boats for fishing and water-skiing, the 20-footer is most popular in Utah, says Birklacich, perhaps because of the vast expanses of water in the state.
Despite a poor overall local economy, the 25- to 30-foot cabin cruisers are doing awfully well this year. According to Birklacich, they are selling three times as much as a year ago.
Bill Van Os at Robertson's Marine also says the luxury boats or "live-aboards" are doing well, perhaps because people can still write them off on their taxes. He says the family boats, the 19 1/2-foot outboards, are still the most popular, although the sluggish local ecomony has slowed sales.
While jet-skis have been around for a few years, the hottest new thing according to Van Os is the Yamaha Water Vehicle, which is bigger than the jet-ski and with a quicker response. They come in 1- or 2-person varieties. Sailboats, which used to be a mainstay on the Great Salt Lake, are starting to make a comeback this year thanks to new facilities at the lake.
According to Utah law, all motorboats and sailboats must be registered and numbered. Sailboards and "registered boats owned by a resident from another state, which have not been in the state for more than 14 days" are exempt from registration. Last year, there were 49,583 boats registered in the state, down slightly from the previous year, according to Ted Woolley, boating coordinator for the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation.
Woolley says accidents are the biggest concern for his department. Last year there were more than 100 reportable accidents and numerous non-reported accidents. He said there are two main causes of accidents.
"One is driving under the influence of alcohol," he said. "The other is speed and proximity. You must be at least 150 feet away from another vehicle above a wakeless speed, even on a jet-ski.
"The main thing to remember is that courtesy is always the best solution. You should do whatever you can to avoid an accident," said Woolley.
Another important thing for boaters to remember is to always use life preservers. Most deaths associated with boating come from improper or non-use of life jackets.