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Florida Boating: How to Stay Safe on the Water This Summer

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There is an old wives’ tale that you shouldn’t go swimming for about one hour after you eat. While that myth has been debunked, there are other ideals that might be helpful to water enthusiasts. In particular, taking a class on boating safety is a great way to make sure nothing cramps your style while out on the water.

Start off this boating season and National Boating Safety Week, which is May 22 to 29, with a boating safety class offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary (USCGA). The USCGA is the uniformed, all-volunteer component of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) that’s made up of 26,000 members in approximately 850 units or flotillas throughout the U.S. and its territories. District 7, which includes Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, is its largest district.

So why not take advantage of this valuable resource before going boating this year?

Vice Flotilla Commander in Lake County and Unit Coordinator Robert Musco says that boating safety classes aren’t required by law in Florida for personal recreational (non-commercial) boat operators. However, they’re extremely useful for anyone who wants to enjoy boating safely, no matter their boating experience level.

Boat America is an eight-hour, comprehensive class that covers boating law, safety equipment, safe operation and navigation, boating emergencies and trailering. Some insurance companies offer discounts on boating insurance for those who successfully complete the class.

According to Musco, USCG-approved life jackets are not required to be worn at all times by adults while on the water (it is required for children under six on boats 26 feet and smaller), but that shouldn’t stop you from wearing one. There are four types of USCG-approved life jackets available, including comfortable ones that are easy to wear.

“In nearly 85% of all drownings, the person was not wearing a life jacket,” Musco says.
This is why the No. 1 thing he encourages all boaters to do is wear a life jacket.

“I hear it all the time: ‘But I’m a great swimmer,” Musco says. “If you get knocked unconscious, your swimming skills aren’t going to help you. And putting a life jacket on after an accident can be a lot trickier than you think.”

To learn more about boating safety, find a Boat America class in your area, or get a free vessel safety check, visit uscgaux.org.

Follow these simple tips to have a safe, fun time while boating.

• Make a float plan and share it with a friend or family member on shore.
• Monitor weather conditions before you go out and while on the water.
• Have enough USCG-approved life jackets—and the right sizes—for everyone on board. It’s the law.
• Wear your life jacket while boating.
• Know your limits. You can be boarded by the Coast Guard, fined, and even taken to jail if you are thought to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while operating a boat.

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Written by Tarre Beach

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