Beautiful weather for boating has returned and before you cast off make sure that you, your family and your boat are ready for a safe boating season.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) our state historically has the highest number of reported boating accidents, injuries and fatalities in the nation. Because of the year-round boating environment and the sheer numbers of people who enjoy it - whether canoeing or kayaking, using their personal watercraft (jet skies), motorboats or sailboats, there is bound to be some accident activity. However, the goal of the U.S. Coast Guard and all state and local marine regulatory agencies is to reduce that number of incidents through boater education, and enforcement in order to make the state waterways safer for everyone to enjoy.
Here are a few checklist items to review before getting underway:
Check your boat registration documents and decals - make sure they are current and correctly applied to the vessel. Make sure to carry the registration on board - just like your automobile.
State law requires that any vessel operator born on and after January 1, 1988 take an approved Boater education course through the FWC or any of the approved providers. You can even take it on line. Upon course completion you must apply for a Boater education identification Card with the FWC's Division of law enforcement. The web site of MyFWC.com will have all the details. Anyone operating a vessel with 10-horse power or more must carry this card and a photo ID card with them while operating the boat.
File a float plan - make sure some one knows when you are leaving - where you are going and when you plan to return. Make sure you make emergency contact numbers available.
Operating a boat and alcohol do not mix and the penalties for boating while intoxicated could end your boating season quickly.
Watch the weather and use common sense. Know the limits if your boating expertise and don't take on weather your boat may not handle.