Residents Urged To Put Safety First During Summer Boating Season

Phot0 by George Papabeis
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is reminding residents to be safe on the water.

Traditionally the arrival of summer draws boaters out on the water for some fun in the sun and on the water. However, according to local law enforcement officials as well as members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 74 in Brandon, the increased activity does not always mean a keener sense of boating safety.

“The summer months are always very busy and is the most boater accident-prone time of year,” said Auxiliary Flotilla 74 spokesperson George Papabeis. “Boaters falling overboard continues to be the number one cause of boating fatalities,” he said.

Last month’s National Safe Boating Week specifically drew attention to the necessity of not only having a life jacket, but wearing one while boating.

“By law, all vessels, even small crafts like a canoe, a kayak or a paddle raft, is required to have a life jacket on board,” Papabeis said. “Your life jacket is only good if you are wearing it.”

“People fall out of boats all the time,” Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office detective Larry McKinnon said, adding that alcohol is often a major factor in boating incidents.

As part of its boating safety education mission, the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary provides Vessel Safety Checks (VSC) a personal watercraft checks of all types and sizes by highly-qualified Auxiliary vessel examiners to ensure that it meets federal and Florida requirements.

The VSC is a 15-minute inspection to identify potential mechanical problems or safety violations that could create dangerous situations for you or your passengers.

Checks are performed at the Williams Park Boat Ramp on the first and third Saturdays of each month from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Reportedly, 90 percent of individuals involved in a boating accident had not taken a Safe Boating Class. To assist local boaters, the Auxiliary Flotilla 74 will also hold a one-day in-depth boating safety course, on Saturday, July 21, from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m., at the Flotilla building in J.C. Handley Park, located at 3006 S. Kings Ave. in Brandon.

Course cost is $35. Seating is limited and pre-registration is highly recommended; however, walk-ins are welcome as space allows.

Successful completion of the program entitles boaters to apply for the Florida Boating Safety Education Card, which many insurance companies honor by giving discounts on boat insurance.

For additional information, call 644-2894 or visit www.cgaux74.org.