The sun is shining, the fish are biting and many residents are ready to hitch up the boat and trailer and head to the back bays, the rivers and the gulf. As you plan your summer fun on the water, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office encourages recreational boaters to “know before you go”.
• Know both county and state boating laws. Boating safety education courses are available online. Not only will this course provide you with important information for staying safe on the water, but Florida law states that anyone who operates a motorboat of 10hp or greater, and born on or after 1/1/88 must complete an approved boating safety course.
• Know that drinking and boating don’t mix. Be aware that operating a boat while under the influence is not only a significant danger that can lead to disaster, but it’s against the law. Being charged with BUI can put your freedom at stake and leave you with serious financial consequences.
• Know the forecast. Weather can change very quickly on the water so keep an eye to the sky and monitor radio and weather channels frequently.
• Know how many lifejackets you have on board. The law requires that all recreational boats must carry one wearable life jacket for each person aboard.
• Know the risks. Carelessness and inattention are the leading cause of boating accidents in Florida. Captains are expected to navigate the waters safely and should always be on the lookout for other watercraft, swimmers and safety hazards.
• Know that Lee County works very hard to protect the Florida manatee. This means increased patrols on the water and enforcement of vessel speed limits in manatee protections zones is very strict. Check out www.myfwc.com for more information on manatee protection rules.
• Know where you are going and prepare a float plan. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a great float plan at the above website. Complete the form then leave it with someone you can depend on to notify law enforcement in case you do not return as scheduled.
Without a doubt, Lee County is home to some of the most beautiful beaches and waterways in the world. As you enjoy its splendor this summer, be sure and keep safety first.
To arrange for someone to come out to your community to talk about this or another safety or security topic please contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Community Relations Section at (239) 477-1400.