PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer and boating season.

If you have a boat, it’s likely been sitting in storage all winter, so it’s important to prepare before going out for the first time this year.

“Beginning mistakes that people make is they jumpstart their boat, they go out on the water, and then when they shut their boat off, their battery is dead. So make sure you have a good operational battery and you have good clean fuel, that’s really important,” said Chance Barlow, Chief of Police for Fon Du Lac Park District and Marine Law Enforcement.

Proper safety equipment includes an operational fire extinguisher, lighting devices, anchor, throw ring and life jackets for all passengers.

Barlow warned boaters to be mindful of low water levels if boating on the Illinois River. The water can be just one and a half to two feet deep in some areas.

“There’s areas out there that are so low that it will stop your boat immediately, and you could run the risk of getting injured. Most of the time people get stuck in the mud, and when they get stuck in the mud they’re not able to get out properly,” he said.

Barlow said it’s also important to “know your waterways” and be familiar with the channel markers north of the McClugage Bridge

“It’s a large open water and there really is a clear path you need to travel on for the channel, be aware of that… Make sure you know you’re within the boundaries of the green and red markers,” he said.

Barlow also recommended taking a boating safety course from the Illinois Department of Conservation.

He also reminded those drinking that it’s illegal to drink and drive a boat. Designate a sober driver and expect increased law enforcement presence on the water this weekend.