traveling the lake

Pair lights up Lake Murray after dark to guide boaters

tflach@thestate.comJuly 27, 2013 

  • Where are the lights?

    Go to this story at thestate.com for a map showing location of boating reference lights on Lake Murray.

    About this series

    Traveling the Lake is an occasional glimpse at what’s happening around Lake Murray this summer.

— Boating on Lake Murray after sunset is less dangerous thanks to Dave Moxley and Bill King.

The pair of volunteers make sure that 33 navigation lights shine at night to help those on watercraft determine their location along the 650-mile lakefront.

It’s a role that Moxley has undertaken for 15 years, with King assisting him for most of that period.

Both are members of the lake chapter of the U.S. Power Squadron, a boating group that oversees maintenance of the beacons atop poles along the lakeshore as a public service.

Handling upkeep on the lights a few hours monthly is “our little contribution to safety out there,” retired electrical engineer Moxley said.

The lights have been in operation since 1996, after shoreline community groups decided the lights were vital to help guide boaters in the dark.

Using the lights gives law enforcement officers “a good starting point in finding people” who call for help, said Capt. Robert McCullough, spokesman for state natural resources officers who patrol the lake.

The lights are spaced so boaters can see at least two anywhere on the 47,500-acre lake, using signals from the lights to determine where they are.

Each light – 19 on the north shore are red and 14 on the south shore are green – flash distinct signals that mark its site on a chart.

Training in use of the signals is included in navigation safety courses taught by state officials and groups like the Power Squadron.

Upkeep is easier these days as new technology means the lights are brighter, last longer and use less energy, Moxley said.

Some are in remote parts of the lakeshore, powered by the sun instead of electricity.

Service calls mean “you get to go places where few people get to go,” Moxley said.

Leaders of shoreline community groups call Moxley and King unsung heroes.

The rising popularity of boating makes the lights “more important than ever,” said Andy Hyman of Chapin, president of the Lake Murray Association.

“It’s vital to keep them in good shape,” he said. “They’re traffic signals on the water.”

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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