In 2014, the U.S. Coast Guard accounted for 900,000 recreational boaters in the state of Florida. The state also claimed the largest percentage of boater accidents in the United States: 11 percent. Being a coastal city gives Tampa great waterfront restaurants and parks and beautiful views, and some great areas for boating. This Fourth of July, the nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water predicts crowded launch ramps, marina facilities and significant boat traffic congestion in waterways. Tampa is to be no exception. If you’re going out on the water this Independence Day, consider these tips for staying safe.
- Don’t Be Distracted
Being distracted is just as dangerous on the water as it is on the road. Figure out how to use your GPS before getting on the water, instead of toggling with it while trying to stay aware of your surroundings. Take the time to learn the placement of your boat controls; be able to move between the wheel and throttle without looking and know the location of the trim switch, running lights and bilge switch.
- Hold Off on the Alcohol
Wait to begin drinking alcohol until you are safely ashore or tied up for the night. Alcohol can lower situational awareness, increased by the tiring effects of constant sun, wind and waves. Bring lots of water and non-alcoholic beverages.
- Get a Life Jacket You’ll Actually Wear
It’s just like buying a piece of clothing, if you look at it and wonder if you’ll actually wear it that might not be the right one for you. Life jackets no longer have to be bulky and uncomfortable like they used to. Check out the newer, small lightweight inflatable-style life jackets that are more manageable and more fashionable. This video from BoatUS is a helpful guide to the right life jacket for you.
- If You’re a Paddler
Just like a boater, paddlers need to understand all the nautical rules of the road as well. If you haven’t studied up in awhile, you can find them here. Some clues: practice defensive paddling and assume no one can see you, at night show a white light and avoid crowded anchorages and congested ramp areas.
- If You Break Down
If the truly unfortunate does occur, you know who to call. No, not ghostbusters. BoatUS has a towing service which you can contact 24-hours a day through their app. But if you’re looking to avoid any complications, make sure to monitor your boat’s battery during the day, go slow while hauling your anchor line, watch for wakes, and be super vigilant so you don’t run over someone else’s anchor line once the fireworks end.