Boating safety emphasized as Memorial Day approaches

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Boating season begins with Memorial Day weekend, and with that, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers are reminding boaters to follow safety procedures.

There are more than 870,000 registered recreational vessels in Florida, so this weekend is sure to be a busy one on local waterways.

"We don't want to see folks at an emergency room, funeral home or a jail, so it's important you have all your safety gear this weekend," said FWC Lt. Paul Arkin.

There must be a life jacket for every person on a boat, and children 6 and under must wear the vest.

Other items are needed if a rescue is necessary. They are a throwable flotation device and rope, horn or whistle and fire extinguisher.

Boaters should also make sure to have their "kill switch" on.

"This way, for some reason if you get thrown from the boat, the kill switch will cut the engine off," Arkin said. "This way the vessel is not on the loose by itself."

And remember to be safe when pulling a passenger back into the boat.

"Bring them in on the stern of the boat if the motor is running because you have the prop back there," Arkin said. "So anywhere from the bow to the midpoint of the boat."

Always follow the speed limit and make sure not to drive fast in a no-wake zone.

And remember, drinking and boating rules are different from drinking and driving a car.

"Unlike a vehicle, you can have alcoholic beverages in the boat with you and you can consume them, you just can't be impaired," Arkin said.

FWC plans to ramp up its patrols Friday through Monday.

If you were born Jan. 1, 1988, and after, you must take the boater safety course to drive a vessel and have the boat safety identification card as well as another form of ID on board.

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