Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kick-off of the summer boating season. Along the Nature Coast, many more boaters are heading to our local ramps. Citrus County is already experiencing high boating traffic, and you can expect an increase this weekend. The Safe Boating Campaign and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary of Crystal River offer these safety tips for safely enjoying the holiday weekend on the water:
· Wear a life jacket. Make sure everyone is wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Check your child’s life jacket to see if it still fits.
· Check equipment. Make sure you have and know how to use all the essential equipment.
· Make a float plan. Let family and friends know where you’re going and when you will return.
· Use an engine cutoff device. An engine cutoff device is a proven safety device to stop the boat’s engine should the operator unexpectedly fall overboard.
· Watch the weather. Always check the forecast before departing on the water and frequently during your excursion.
· Know what’s going on around you at all times. Nearly a quarter of all reported boating accidents in 2018 were caused by operator inattention or improper lookout.
· Know where you’re going and travel at safe speeds. Familiarize yourself with local boating speed zones and always travel at a safe speed.
· Never boat under the influence. A BUI is involved in one-third of all recreational boating fatalities.
· Keep in touch. Cell phones, satellite phones, EPIRB or personal locator beacon, and VHF radios can all be important devices in an emergency.
· Practice social distancing. Follow state and local guidance from public health officials. No more than 10 to a boat. Stay 50 feet away from other boats.
· When you get the chance, take a safe boating course from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary of Crystal River.
Linda Jones is vice division commander of Division 15 of USCG Auxiliary; staff officer for public affairs and events for Division 15, and ombudsman for Coast Guard Station Yankeetown.