Just like Gasparilla, the concerts and events surrounding this weekend's College Football Playoff National Championship game are expected to fill downtown's waterfront on both sides of the shore.
"It's going to be a lot of boats in a small area," Tampa police Master Patrol Officer Luis Vazquez said Tuesday. So city, county, state and federal marine officials are offering advice for the hundreds of recreational boaters expected to converge this weekend on the Hillsborough River, Garrison Channel and the turning basin next to the Tampa Convention Center.
"We're going to be working together with the main goal that everyone has a good time," said Master Cpl. Steve Decatur of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office marine unit. "Be mindful of your wake, your vessel speed. It's a slow speed zone, so we're going to be looking for everyone to be considerate of one other."
Don't drink and boat
"The No. 1 thing we're going to look for is BUIs — boating under the influence," Vazquez said. "Come out here and have a good time, but if you drink too much, you're going to jail. … It's no different than driving a car."
Don't get in the way
Near Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park — the site of free public concerts Friday night, Saturday and Sunday — authorities will let boaters anchor, but not block the waterway, Vazquez said.
Along with anyone at the helm, passengers should watch in all directions for potential collisions.
"Keep your head on a swivel," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer James Boogaerts said.
Authorities will check to make sure boats aren't carrying too many people. Boaters also should make sure they have life jackets and other safety equipment.
In an emergency, boaters can call 911 or marine radio Ch. 16. Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Tim Hayes said the city will have boats on the water with divers, medical equipment and firefighting capabilities.
If you're paying a fare to go on a boat ride, authorities said, make sure the captain has the necessary Merchant Marine credentials, often known as a red passport.
"If you are paying, just ask the captain, 'Can I see your license?' " said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Greg Marshall.
Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times.