Summer is the time for fun! We are going to the beach and making sand castles or playing in the waves. We head to Florida’s cool springs to get away from the heat and humidity. And we head out on the boat to enjoy our Indian River Lagoon. These are among the many great things one can do during the heat of summer. Since June is National Safety Month, let’s explore some of the safety measures you should take while out on a boat this summer.
Being Safe While on the Water
National Safe Boating Week was May 19-25, 2018 and one of their campaigns is the WEAR IT campaign. Unfortunately, Florida is a national leader in annual boating fatalities. We can boat year-round in Florida. We also have many tourists who come to Florida and rent boats while they’re here. The majority of fatalities every year are boaters that fall overboard and drown. These deaths can easily be prevented by wearing a life jacket. Even if you’re a great swimmer, wearing a life jacket could save your life if you fall overboard. Plus there are all kinds of life jackets available on the market today, including inflatable ones, that make wearing a life jacket comfortable and help keep you from getting too hot.
Make sure you’re familiar with boating regulations, signage, and waterway markers in the area that you’ll be boating. Be conscious of shallow water and understand what the idle speed, no wake and slow speed, and minimum wake signs mean in areas where speed zones are marked. Better yet, take a boater education course so you’ll know all the rules, regulations, and rules of navigation before heading out. Remember, Florida law requires anyone who was born on or after January 1, 1988 to successfully complete an approved boating safety course. You must obtain a Boating Safety Education Identification Card issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Check out this website for more information: http://www.myfwc.com/boating/safety-education/courses.
Watch Out for Wildlife and Seagrass
While out on the water, be on the lookout for wildlife such as manatees and sea turtles that often get struck by speeding boats because they can’t get out of the way fast enough. Being aware of slow speed zones will help in preventing accidentally striking wildlife that you can’t see under the water. Also, if you’re in shallow water, be aware of places where seagrass might be growing. Seagrass scarring is caused by boats that enter shallow water. The propeller can come in contact with the seagrass, and rip it up from the sediment. Recovery and growth of seagrasses in these scarred areas takes years. If the damage is repeated, the seagrass bed may never completely recover.
The Indian River Lagoon has lost a lot of seagrass over the past several years due to algae blooms. It’s important to not disturb or rip up the seagrass that we have left. If you happen to be boating over a seagrass bed in shallow water, make sure to trim your motor up and idle to a safe depth before getting up on a plane. You can also take the Seagrass Safe Boating Pledge http://beseagrasssafe.com/seagrass-pledge. When you sign the pledge, you commit to avoiding seagrass beds when possible, to trim your motor and idle if needed, and to push your boat to a safe area if you run aground.
Enjoy the summer! Enjoy your time on the water! And Be Safe!