Staying safe on the water during summer holidays

Reporter: Rich Kolko
Published: Updated:

It’s almost Independence Day and a lot of Southwest Floridians are taking the opportunity to get out on the water.

If you are planning on boating, officials from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission want you to know how to stay safe on the water by planning and being smart.

Brad Stender, a corporal at the CCSO Marine Unit, said they are looking for boats in “reckless operation” out on the water during the festivities on Thursday.

“We try to step up our patrols out here,” Corporal Stender said. “We look for boats weaving in and out of the bridges that are by paddleboarders not slowing down.”

Corporal Stender warns that if a person is caught drinking and boating, it is a serious crime. It is important to think before cracking open that beer.

DOWNLOAD: Boating Safety Float Plan

Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is a misdemeanor offense and those arrested are taken to jail. If found guilty, you can end up with fines up to $1,000 plus court costs, and even jail time.

In 2018, there were 56 fatal boating crashes resulting in 59 fatalities across the state of Florida. Alcohol or drug use was determined to be a factor in 19% of those fatal accidents.

FWC wants to lower or eliminate that number.

The agency also recommends that you carry a visual distress signal for both days and night.

MORE: Fort Myers Beach sets the standard for boating safety

Before you make a trip, it is important to make a float plan. The plan includes the make and model of your boat as well as detailed plans on your trip. Leave it with someone you can depend on to notify FWC in the case of an accident.

An outline of the float plan, along with additional boater safety tips, can be found on the FWC website.

Boating safety check list

The safety message from all of the program sponsors is simple: be prepared.

Charlotte County Fire & EMS boater’s safety tips listed below are important steps boaters should recognize and adhere to before embarking on their voyage.

  • Check the weather.
  • Prepare and follow your pre-departure checklist.
  • Develop a float plan and share your plan with someone remaining on land.
  • Make sure your boat and equipment is in working order before departure.
  • Be equipped with proper life jackets for all persons.
  • Never drink alcohol before or while operating a boat.
  • Operate at a safe speed and maintain a careful lookout.
  • Be equipped with a working marine radio or fully charged cell phone.
  • Remember to bring an emergency signaling devise and sound producing devises.
  • Keep everyone hydrated and use sun block throughout the day.

Fire & EMS also recommends boaters follow the boat safety checklist.

  • Life jackets and throwable devices
  • Distress signals and sound producing devices
  • First aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • Sun block
  • Flares and day signals
  • Check all boat lights, and flashlights
  • Fuel and oil
  • Bilges and plugs
  • Battery
  • Docking and anchoring equipment
  • Emergency locator beacons
  • Tools and spares
  • Fire extinguishers

For more information on boating safety visit the FWC website.

Florida Virtual School Outdoor Education Course. Free and open to Florida residents ages 12 to 18. The only course in the nation to combine both hunting and boating safety. Participants will develop skills in outdoor activities and learn about the benefits of physical activity while using proper safety procedures to experience wildlife, outdoor and extreme sports.

By meeting all of the requirements of the Outdoor Education course, not only will students receive their Florida Boating Safety Education ID Card and be eligible to obtain a Florida Hunter Safety Certificate, they’ll also earn a 0.5 credit for high school, and meet public school requirements for taking an online course and a physical education course.

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