Freedom Boat Club owner shares her most important boating tip: ‘Be a sober skipper’

Memorial Day weekend considered unofficial start of boating season

Memorial Day weekend is considered the unofficial start of the boating season, and it’s important that boaters stay safe on the water.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Memorial Day weekend is considered the unofficial start of the boating season, and it’s important that boaters stay safe on the water.

Over the weekend, five people died after two boats collided on the Wilmington River near Savannah, Georgia. One of the surviving boaters was reportedly charged with boating under the influence.

On Monday, News4JAX spoke with some boaters who shared the importance of keeping an eye out for other boaters while on the water.

Brandon Sebree was one of the many people who took a boat out on the water on Monday. He told News4JAX that he was going fishing. We caught up with him at the Mayport Boat Ramp.

“In Florida, we’re pretty fortunate, the [boating] season doesn’t really end. There’s always something for us to do throughout the entire year,” he said. “But definitely thankful that we get the hot weather back.”

He said he’s extra careful during busy boating days like Memorial Day.

“The biggest danger this weekend is definitely the people -- not more so their equipment -- it’s them operating their equipment,” Sebree said.

Lisa Almeida, the owner of Freedom Boat Club, shared her most important boating tip.

“Be a sober skipper,” Almeida said. “You need to be sober when you’re driving.”

Almeida said it’s also important to have someone who’s responsible enough to be the driver’s second pair of eyes.

“When I’m driving, I’ll have people, they’ll say, ‘Hey, Lisa, there’s a boat coming up on your right.’ I’m, like, ‘Thank you so much,’” Almeida said.

An employee at Freedom Boat Club showed News4JAX what you need to do before leaving the dock:

  • Make sure your propeller is not chipped.
  • Make sure you have the registration on the boat.
  • Make sure you have an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. “EPIRBs are really great if you’re offshore and something terribly goes wrong and you guys start sinking, this, once this thing fills up with water, it immediately lets the Coast Guard know where you’re at and they’ll come to your rescue,” the employee explained.
  • Have a kill switch connected to you. It’s really important to have this on.

And you’re going to want to make sure you have these items on your boat:

  • Life jackets
  • Flares
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A whistle
  • A marine radio
  • An anchor
  • A working horn

Another important thing is to have a Sea Tow or BoaterUS membership in case your boat breaks down in the water.

There are also boating safety courses available for people to take. On the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website, there are links to classroom and online courses if you’re not trained on how to operate a boat properly. Anyone born on or after January 1, 1988, who will be operating a boat in Florida waters with an engine of 10horsepower or more needs a boating safety ID.

About the Author:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.