Stay safe on the water this weekend
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-758-0525
This holiday weekend promises to be one of the busiest of the
year on the state's waterways. The Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission (FWC) wants to make it a safe holiday
weekend as well.
Even one accident is too many.
Boating safety is one of the FWC's core missions, and officers
will be out in force this weekend, performing safety checks and
educating boaters about the importance of wearing life jackets
while on the water. They will also be paying close attention to
boat operators who are impaired.
If you're boating on the Suwannee River, be aware of jumping
There have been 11 reported sturgeon encounters this year,
according to Maj. Lee Beach, regional law enforcement commander for
the FWC's North Central Region, based in Lake City.
"So far, six people have been injured in encounters with these
big fish," Beach said. "We recommend that boaters go slow to reduce
the risk of impact and to give people more time to react if they do
encounter a jumping sturgeon."
Biologists are unsure why sturgeon jump.
To report sturgeon collisions, call 888-404-FWCC (3922).
"If anyone is involved in an incident with a jumping sturgeon,
please report it to the FWC. With the data received, we can get a
better overall view of where the fish are jumping. We are trying
very hard to get the word out to the public," Beach said.
Here are some additional safety tips if you're going to be out
on the water this weekend.
- Always wear your life jacket.
- Keep a sharp lookout in all directions when operating a boat.
Watch out for other boaters, fixed or floating objects, wildlife
and bad weather.
- Make sure you have all the safety equipment required on your
boat and that it's in good working order. Also bring a weather
radio to check reports to avoid storms.
- July Fourth is the one time a year many boaters - who may
rarely navigate in the dark - venture out after the sun goes down.
Keep your speed down, post an extra lookout, and ensure all your
navigation lights work. Be extra vigilant about not running over
anchor lines in crowded fireworks-viewing areas, and don't take
shortcuts in the dark. When running at night in restricted waters,
use a searchlight to locate regulatory markers and obstructions.
Turn off all unnecessary lighting to promote better night vision
and safety. Don't shine a searchlight directly on other boaters who
are under way.
- Don't overload your boat. Resist the urge to invite more
friends or family to the fireworks show than your boat was designed
to carry. Heavily loaded small boats, and those with little
freeboard such as bass boats, are more susceptible to swamping from
weather or wake action associated with heavy July Fourth boating
- A full day in the sun will increase alcohol's effects on the
body, so if you're the operator, remember to take it easy.
According to FWC investigators, alcohol is the most common factor
involved in boating fatalities.
- Never run the engine when swimmers are in the water:
Raft-ups, or groups of boats tied together in a protected
anchorage, is a great way to spend the holiday with fellow boating
friends. But you should never run an engine with swimmers in the
water near exhaust ports or props.
- File a float plan so someone knows where you are and when
you're supposed to return. Leave the plan with a relative or friend
or at least a local marina. Leave a phone number of local
authorities your relative or friend should contact if you are
overdue. Contact this person again when you return or if you decide
to extend your time out on the water.
- Take cover before bad weather hits. Avoid boating in
thunderstorms or other nasty weather. Though most people fear the
lightning produced by summer thunderstorms and rightly so, the
wind, which can easily exceed 45 mph and the accompanying
torrential rain are far more likely to cause a boater serious
- Take a free boater education course. The Florida Legislature
enacted a boating education law that requires completion of an
approved boating safety course for anyone under 21 years of age who
operates a boat with a motor of 10 horsepower or greater. You can
take a free, state-sponsored boating safety course by calling the
FWC's Lake City regional office at 386-758‑0525 or visiting MyFWC.com/Boating to take
the course online.
"We want everyone to have a great time on the water this holiday
weekend," Beach said, "but we also want everyone to make it home at
the end of the holiday.
"Be safe and have a great Fourth of July," Beach said.