Boaters need to be extra cautious on July 4th weekend
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 restaurants.
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 vessels.
One of the main duties of Florida Fish & 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 tha t 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 addition 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.