JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As more and more people head downtown for the Georgia-Florida game festivities, the city docks in the St. Johns River near TIAA Bank Field are filling up as boaters secure their spots.
So many diehard Bulldogs and Gators tailgate on the water, and Coast Guard members are making sure they have fun — but do it responsibly and stay safe.
“There’s a group of us that always show up, and we’ve become pretty good friends,” said boater Robin Doering.
On Thursday, Robin and Nancy Doering invited News4JAX onboard their boat the Rockin’ Robin. They have been mooring downtown for 25 years now.
“It’s really exciting, and we have some loud horns on our boat so we can honk those every time we get a touchdown,” Nancy Doering said.
As the big rivalry matchup nears, the waterways are sure to fill up.
“We have all the safety gear. We have all of our lifejackets,” Robin Doering said.
While the Doerings are cautious, not everyone is as conscientious.
“We are out there on the water to make sure that everyone is safe,” Sean Gradin with the U.S. Coast Guard.
News4JAX on Thursday also went out with Coast Guard members from Mayport. They’ll be part of the law enforcement presence this weekend, cracking down on dangerous activity, which includes boating under the influence and people operating illegal charters.
“If we can’t see a clear relationship or if they can’t tell us how they know each other, that’s one way that we know if they are an illegal charter or not, as well as are they paying?” Gradin said.
The Coast Guard caught the captains of a 53-foot boat called the Dream Chaser at last year’s Florida-Georgia game, saying they were chartering it out with fans without the proper licenses, training or safety equipment. Owners and operators face fines up to $60,000.
The Doerings love a good party but said they appreciate the heavy law enforcement presence on land and in the water — so everyone can celebrate safely.
“It gets real rowdy when the Gators win,” Robin Doering said. “Real rowdy.”
For information from the Coast Guard on Vessel Safety Checks, click here.