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The unofficial start of summer is here so here are a few things to remember before you take the boat out this Memorial Day weekend.

Here in Florida, we are surrounded by water so it’s not a surprise that the Sunshine State is the boating capital of the country, if not the world. With over one million registered vessels, boat safety needs to be taken seriously. Last year there were 102 boating accidents in May alone. Over 20% of boating accidents statewide are the result of people falling overboard.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister had some things to say about boat safety:

Before you take to the water, here are a few things to do to make sure your boat is safe.

  • Have A Boat Safety Checklist And Safety Equipment

    Before you even get in the water, make sure your boat has the essential safety gear. Not only that, inspect it and make sure it is working properly. Some pieces of gear your boat should have are:

    • Life jackets and wearable personal flotation devices
    • Throwable flotation devices
    • Fire extinguishers
    • Visual signaling devices
    • Sound signaling devices

    Check out this nifty video:

    There are also a dozen “should-have” pieces of safety equipment for your boat:

    1. Medical kit for cuts, scrapes, seasickness or small emergencies
    2. Anchor with line to hold your boat in place while you wait for help to arrive
    3. Bailing device or bucket to dewater and stay afloat
    4. Oars or paddles if the engine quits
    5. Cellphone to call for help
    6. VHF radio to call for help
    7. Knife to cut a line around a fouled propeller
    8. Snorkel mask to inspect what’s going on under the boat
    9. Heavy duty flashlight
    10. Skier or diver down flag
    11. Working running lights if your boat is equipped with them
    12. A way to get weather updates because things can change quickly even on a lake
  • Know Your Weather

    Always, always, always check local, destination, and route weather and water conditions before you leave. Weather can change quickly here in Florida, so make sure it is safe to take to the water.

  • Know The Nautical Rules Of The Road

    Buoys and navigation aids are there for a reason. They are to help ensure your safety and the safety of boats around you. Don’t know the nautical rules of the road, here’s a refresher.

  • Use Common Sense

    Operate your boat at a safe speed at all times. Stay alert and steer clear of larger vessels and watercraft. Remember boats aren’t cars and may have restricted abilities to stop or turn.

  • Use Your Life Jackets Properly

    Life jackets aren’t only nautically fashionable, but they can save you! Before you hit the water, assign one to each person on your boat and make sure they are fitted properly. Here’s how you can do that. In Florida, a child under the age of 6 must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II or III personal flotation device while onboard a vessel under 26 feet in length while the vessel is underway.

  • Be A Sober Skipper

    Nearly half of all boating accidents involve alcohol. “A third of our crashes are because of impaired operators,” said Sheriff Chronister. “We’re encouraging everyone to have a good time. It’s going to be a great weekend, just please do it safely.

    Operating a boat while intoxicated is illegal. So before you leave the dock, designate a sober skipper.