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Safe at Sea: Busted on the water!

By Staff | Aug 4, 2020

If you’ve been boating regularly, you’ve undoubtedly witnessed the U.S. Coast Guard at work.

Recently, I learned of a boater who had only recently purchased his new boat; in fact, he had only had a couple day-trips logged. On a beautiful Florida day, he ran his boat on a leisurely trip up the river. Along the way – having captained his boat perfectly – he heard out of nowhere the wail of a siren. He twisted his head around, and sure enough there was the U.S. Coast Guard bearing down on him.

Finding a calm open spot, the USCG boat pulled alongside his vessel. His first remark, “What did I do wrong?” The truth is he was not handling his boat in any manner that would have alerted the Coast Guard to pull him over. Nonetheless, the captain was cited for a safety violation because his new boat had been outfitted by the foreign manufacturer; thus, the safe equipment on board did not meet USCG regulations. What a “heads-up!”

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the following are the top 10 most common offenses that power boaters are likely to be cited for, listed from the least common to the most (a few of which you might be violating, but not know it):

– No backfire flame control device in compartment spaces.

This is not much of a concern unless you’re operating a modified engine.

– Negligent operation.

In short, the Coast Guard – in its judgment – believes you weren’t navigating in a prudent manner. A common example in our shallow bays: running too fast in a no-wake zone.

– Placard violation.

Do you realize you can be cited for not having a placard on your boat that lists the rules for proper oil or garbage disposal?

– Inoperable or missing navigation lights.

Remember: Check your navigation lights out before you head out on the water.

– An inoperable or missing sound-producing device.

Fairly self-explanatory.

– Fire extinguisher violations.

If you’re found not to have the proper fire extinguisher (correctly charged and operable), you will be cited.

– Missing or out-of-date visual distress signals.

Tip: Don’t get rid of those old flares. They probably still work and just might come in handy, particularly if you’ve moved to utilizing newer, USCG-approved electronic flares. Just wrap the old flares in a plastic bag, so they are not your first-choice flare.

– Drunken boating.

What is surprising to this columnist is that it ranks only third! When you are at the helm of a boat, don’t drink a single drop – ever!

– State or federal documents missing or improper markings.

No owner’s registration? Seriously?

– Missing personal floatation devices.

Is it the law. More importantly, it could save your life and the lives of those you love. Don’t leave home without them.

Pat Schmidt is a member of America’s Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva. For more about the chapter and its boating education courses, visit www.sancapboating.club or contact education@sanibelcaptivasps.org or 612-987-2125.