Being Safe on
By Barb Hansen
Boating is popular
year round in Florida. However, this time of
year boaters are taking to the rivers, lakes and
oceans from coast to coast. But it just breaks
my heart when I read news stories about boaters
who suffer serious injuries – sometimes -- even
death because, for whatever reason they didn’t
follow good safety practices.
I saw this story about
three friends out in the evening to enjoy the
weather and lights on shore when they crashed
their 23-foot boat into a 36-footer with its
anchor lights on and occupants asleep.
Fortunately, no one on board the anchored boat
was injured, but one of the passengers on the
small boat died. Officials were uncertain what
caused the crash, but had sufficient reason to
take a blood sample from the operator of the
While this incident is
very sad of itself, it does corroborate what the
U.S. Coast Guard detailed in its latest report
on boating accidents. The top five contributing
factors to boating accidents are: excessive
speed, lack of experience on the part of the
operator, not paying attention, not maintaining
a proper lookout and machinery failure.
Last year, the Coast
Guard reported 560 deaths, 2,620 injuries and
more than $39 million of property damage as a
result of boating accidents. Even though boating
accidents were down compared to the previous
year, those Coast Guard numbers got my
attention. So what can we do to avoid becoming
one of those statistics?
If you are new to
boating, please consider taking a boating safety
course. Information is easily accessible online.
The same is true of vessel safety checks, -- not
only what the maker of your boat suggests but
also what the Coast Guard recommends. Be
vigilant about maintaining your vessel and
making sure that things like flares and fire
extinguishers are kept up to date.
Canoeing, kayaking and
paddle-boarding have grown in popularity across
the country, as well. If you enjoy one of these
sports, make sure you know what your limits are
so you don’t find yourself out at sea and out of
personal “gas” or short on daylight.
Carbon monoxide or CO
is sometimes referred to as the silent killer.
It is a potentially lethal boating danger
despite the fact that boating is an outdoor
endeavor. Make sure that any vessel with a cabin
has a CO detector as well as a smoke alarm,
particularly those with a generator.
I don’t want to beat a
dead horse, but please don’t mix boating and
booze. The Coast Guard notes that alcohol use is
even more hazardous on the water than on land.
It is the leading known contributing factor in
fatal boating accidents. The marine environment
– motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and
spray – accelerates a drinker’s impairment. And
a boater with a blood alcohol concentration
above .10 per cent is estimated to be more than
10 times more likely to die in a boating
accident than an operator with zero blood
alcohol concentration. Please not the key word
there is “die”.
Yes, there are
differences in life jackets. As with so many
things, you get what you pay for. Some are
designed to keep your head above water and help
you remain in a position permitting proper
breathing. The last thing you or your crew would
want to be thinking as you are floating in the
Gulf, hoping to be rescued is, “I wish I had
spent the money for a better life jacket.”
No, adult life jackets
won’t work for kids. Each adult and child on
board must have one that fits them. They should
be tested for buoyancy and checked for wear at
least once a year and properly stowed when not
A “Float Plan” is a
great way to let family and friends know your
boating plants. Whether you are heading out for
a day on the lake or a two week cruises to the
Keys, be sure that you complete a float plan
before casting off.
I realize that despite
your best efforts to equip and maintain your
vessel properly and everyone’s best intention to
be careful, boating accidents can happen. In
those instances, remember Federal Law requires
the boat operator to file a boating accident
report with our state reporting agency, the
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC), at:
The Coast Guard’s
has a great deal more information on boating
safety and available courses.
Have a great time
boating this summer, and please be safe.
Marinatown Lane N.W. North Fort Myers Florida 33903
(239) 656-1339 (800) 262-7939 Fax (239) 656-2628
Marinatown Marina 26° 38.5'N 81° 53.0'W
Burnt Store Marina 26° 45.71' N 82° 04.20'W
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