National Safe Boating Week: What you need to know to stay safe on the water

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Boating and Florida go hand in hand. With National Safe Boating Week in effect, North Florida Marine Association making sure boaters have what they need before heading out to sea.

“Boaters should keep in mind the safety 7,” said Administration Director Erin Johnson.

First up on the safety 7 checklist, life jackets. Boaters are required to have a life jacket for everyone on board. Only those 6 and under are required to wear a life jacket while the boat is in operation.

“You should make sure it is a newer and working condition life vest. And you want to make sure it is sized properly for you,” said Johnson.

Johnson said boaters are required to carry all required safety gear.

“A fire extinguisher. Make sure it’s not expired, that it’s working. You should always have a noisemaker. Some type of horn or if you need to alert somebody. Flare gun. This is especially important if you’re an offshore boater.”

Johnson said Florida Law requires boaters to have a lanyard that’s used as an engine cut-off device.

“You should have this attached to you that way if something happens and you fall overboard, your engine will cut off. As soon as this disengages from the device here, the helm of your boat, the engine will cut off. The boat could keep going and you’re in the water you’re by yourself that’s a big problem and specifically and more importantly that you don’t get hit by your engines if you’re in the water,” said Johnson.

Filing a float plan is also essential, so authorities and loved ones know your coordinates if you are lost or in distress. Monitor weather and water conditions before heading out to sea. And lastly, boat sober.

“Alcohol and boating do not mix. Always make sure you have a designated captain or someone that can get you home safely,” said Johnson.

Johnson said the most important tip of all is to have fun and enjoy the boating experience Florida has to offer.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife, 751 boating accidents were reported in Florida in 2021, and 60 of those involved fatalities. Miami had the most accidents and Duval ranked 15th compared to the rest of the counties in the state.