Boat captains stress safety ahead of Jacksonville Boat Show

In 2020, 72% boating deaths occurred when the captain had no boating education

If you're thinking of getting a boat, it may be a good idea to brush up on your boating basics and safety. Last year, 72% of Florida boating deaths occurred due to lack of boating education.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Boaters are revving up for the Jacksonville Spring Boat Show at Met Park and Marina. It’s set to kick off Friday and last through Sunday. For those of you thinking about getting a boat or have one and haven’t used it in a while, it’s always a good idea to brush up on boating basics and safety.

In 2020, 72% boating deaths occurred when the skipper had no boating education, whatsoever. Captain Tyler Barrus with the Freedom Boat Club teaches hours-long boating courses during the week. As always safety comes first. The state of Florida urges all people aboard a vessel to wear a life jacket. Barrus likes the Type 5 Hybrid and showed News4jax how it works.

“If somebody goes in the water, this will automatically expand or any point, you can pull (this) tab and it will expand,” Barrus said. “All you need to do is pull that and it balls up like a miniature airbag.”

Vessels 16 feet in length or longer must also have at least one USCG-approved throwable Type IV personal flotation device that is immediately available in case of a fall overboard. Barrus says this could be your throw cushion. Not only is it a flotation device, it’s also a marker in the water. This makes it easier for rescuers to spot you.

Barrus says one of the most common misconceptions is that boats operate like cars. He says they steer like cars, but that’s where the similarities end.

He also says when out on the water, paying attention is everything. Not only should you look at what the wind is doing, you should have a point of reference ahead because many boats these days do not come with compasses.

If you see an area of water doing something different from the water around it, Barrus said it could be nothing, but could also mean trouble for your vessel.

“It also could mean that the water gets very shallow or very deep in a particular area,” Barrus said. “So, you always want to pay attention when water does something different from the water around it.”

Also, it’s important to know what the many posted signs mean. Barrus says the white ones tend to be regulatory.

“If you don’t do what they say, you could get a ticket,” Barrus said. “The way to remember that is white. It’s the same color as paper, paper equals ticket.”

As one can expect, it’s always fun to go fast. But people need to remember boats don’t have breaks. So to safely and effectively stop, Barrus said you should bring the throttle back to neutral.

“I’m going to count to 5,” Barrus said as he showed News4jax. “And then I’m going to put it in reverse. I’m going to goose it a little bit to stop the momentum.”

When docking, Barrus says more power is never the answer. He says you’ll want to stay in neutral and turn the wheel before you engage the motor. When you do engage, use just enough power to overcome the elements. Also, keep your hands off when getting close to the dock.

“People put their hands out, like that’s going to stop a 4,000-pound boat,” Barrus said. “It’s not a Fred Flintstone vehicle, so it’s not going to work. Use the engine to control the boat.”

Barrus also recommends having a good whistle with you as an extra safety tool. He teaches a three-hour boat class. To learn about it and how to sign up, click here.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.