It has been said a million or more times, but 2020 will go down in history as a dud.

The year 2020 has landed punch after punch on America’s chin, yet we keep answering the bell. If there is one thing 2020 has taught us, “be prepared as it may get worse.”

We are tough and we are resilient, but 2020 is testing us like never before. I believe we may squabble among ourselves, but we are all family in the end, families help each other and we stick together when the chips are down. This weekend we can celebrate our independence, together with “family” in the great outdoors.

Staying safe is the number one concern for this holiday, more so than any other of the year. This weekend will be the busiest of the year for boaters and lake activities. Alcohol is the number one issue for party goers on the fourth.

Driving a boat or a personal watercraft while drinking is just as illegal as drinking and driving. Every year tragedies happen across our great state on this holiday. Please do not let your family become a statistic. Boaters that rarely use their boat or possibly operating a boat for the first time will be out there this weekend so doing the right thing is only half of the equation.

We must also be vigilant for the “other guy” the crowds will have a few bad examples so be aware at all times.

The game wardens will be out in force this weekend so be prepared to be stopped and checked. First off, If you were born on or after Sept. 1, 1993, you must complete a Boater Education course to operate a personal watercraft or a boat with a horsepower rating of more than 15 hp. All of the required items make perfect sense but sadly many boat owners do not have the proper gear.

Here is a short list of what is required to be aboard the average ski boat. Keep in mind different sized vessels have different requirements so do your homework for your boat before heading out. Number one on every list will be an approved life jacket or PFD for each person on board, include a throwable floatation device and kids under 13 must wear the PFD at all times.

Fire extinguishers. A horn or sound making device such as a whistle or bell. Functioning navigational lights, an attached kill switch and finally a minimum 4-inch mirror. This is not a complete list of requirements for every boat so be sure before you back in.

Be safe, enjoy the beautiful lakes and rivers of East Texas and remember we are all family. Happy Fourth of July.