Exercise caution on the water
If you head out on your boat this Memorial Day weekend, watch for other boats, personal watercraft, kayaks and paddleboarders. The state's waterways will be congested, and marine law enforcement agencies will be out in force.
So far this year, 10 people have died in boating-related accidents. It is easy to get distracted in congested areas such as the Intracoastal Waterway, so post a lookout.
Law enforcement officers will be checking for boaters operating under the influence as well as making routine safety inspections. Make sure you have enough personal flotation devices on board and that they fit properly. More than 64 percent of the state's 66 boating-related deaths last year were due to drowning, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Forecasts call for good weather this weekend, but it never hurts to check the radar before heading out. File a float plan with a responsible person detailing the time and location of your departure, where you are going and what time you plan to return.
Make sure the VHF radio is in working order, and carry a cellphone as a backup if you'll be close to land.
Don't overload the boat with people or equipment (check the capacity plate), and have the proper safety equipment: flares, fire extinguisher, horn, signal mirror.
And if all this sounds strange, take a safe boating class. Since 1996, Florida law requires that anyone 21 years of age or younger who plans to operate a vessel with a motor of 10 horsepower or more take a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators-approved boating education course and carry their boating education and photo identification cards.
To get a boater education card, contact the FWC at MyFWC.com. Florida law also requires education for those who have had a criminal violation of state boating laws, a noncriminal violation of state boating laws if it involved a boating accident or two noncriminal boating safety infractions occurring within a 12-month period.
Send your news to Terry Tomalin at email@example.com.
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