Boaters need to be extra cautious on July 4th weekend
As I See It
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Media contact: Chairman Rodney Barreto
The Fourth of July weekend traditionally is one of
the most popular boating holidays of the year. Florida
boaters ramp up the fun factor afloat with picnics, tubing,
waterskiing, attending fireworks displays and visiting waterside
These activities alone don't constitute anything
that might be dangerous - except when boaters abuse alcohol, don't
wear life jackets, don't consider weather developments or don't
keep a sharp lookout ahead, to the sides and behind their
One of the main duties of Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission officers is the enforcement of boating
safety regulations. Many sheriff's departments and local
police departments also have law enforcement officers afloat to
help out with marine safety issues.
All these law enforcement agencies will be on the
water, helping to ensure the safety of the boating public during
the extended holiday weekend - and they are all involved in
"Operation Dry Water," a national effort to call attention to the
dangerous practice of operating a vessel under the influence of
alcohol or drugs. Boating safety details in high-use areas
will be targeting inebriated boaters.
In spite of a strong presence of law enforcement
officers on the water, Florida all too often leads the nation in
fatal boating accidents. Copious amounts of both saltwater and
freshwater recreational opportunities and a 12-month boating season
are factors that combine to increase the odds that boating
accidents will happen here. Yet, these factors cannot excuse
the exercise of poor judgment by an irresponsible skipper.
There is an additional concern specific to the
western reaches of the state's boaters this holiday weekend.
Oil from the Deepwater Horizon event is toxic to people as
well as wildlife. To avoid causing additional damage to
ourselves and our environment, boaters should avoid areas where
booms are deployed and oil is present. If near oil booms, keep
speeds down to minimum wake or slower. Wakes from vessels can
damage booms, and traveling through oil can contaminate a vessel,
further spreading toxic chemicals in an already highly stressed
environment. As for the direct effects of oil on your vessel,
piloting through oil or tar will damage your vessel's engine and
your bank account.
Boating is a fun recreational activity, but only as
long as your habits on the water are punctuated with responsible
behavior and good common sense.