Boating Season in Florida is year round and we all want to enjoy our treasured waters so it’s important to remember maritime laws and safety practices. Here are some reminders from local attorney Todd Passman.
- Carry life jackets (PFD’s) onboard as required by law: All recreational boats have to carry one wearable life jacket for each person onboard. If your boat is more than 16 feet you must also carry a throwable device. In Florida waters, children under 6 must wear a U S Coast Guard approved life jacket anytime a vessel is underway.
- Carry a Fire Extinguisher: Fires do occur on boats. This is why the US Coast Guard mandates that vessels less than 26 feet carry 1 type B fire extinguisher. Vessels between 26 feet and 40 feet must have either 2 type B-I or 1 type B-II fire extinguishers unless they have a an approved fixed system and vessels between 40 feet to 65 feet must have either 3 type B-I or 1 type B-II and type1 B-I, unless they have an approved fixed system.
- Don’t Operate a vessel while under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (Boating under the Influence (BUI): Around 25% of the, time alcohol or drug use is a contributing factor in boating accidents. It is a violation of Florida law to operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
- Know how to operate the VHF radio, monitor Channel 16, and be able to give proper distress Calls: Being able to get out a proper distress call when a boating accident or injury occurs can make the difference between the Coast Guard or another vessel being able to find and rescue you and being completely “on your own” after a maritime casualty.
- “Maydays” are first priority distress calls used when there is imminent danger of loss of life or vessel
- “Pan-Pan” (pahn-pahn) distress calls are the next highest priority used when there is danger to a vessel or a person in sight or onboard
- “Securite” (see-cure-i-tay) are third priority safety messages to notify mariners of items relating to navigational safety or weather.
- How to make a mayday call:
- Find and press the DISTRESS button on your VHF until the radio beeps
- Clearly and forcefully state: “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. This is vessel [your boats name or description*] *repeat this three times
- Then say “Mayday. The vessel [“your boats name or description”] is located at [current position, speed and bearing].
- Say again “Mayday. The vessel [“your boats name or description”] has [#] people on board. [You can advise here of injuries, intent to abandon your vessel or deploy lifeboats, etc]
- Say “This is [“your boats name or description”], [callsign/MMSI]. Over.”
- Let go of the “Talk “ button and wait for a response
- If you have no response after 15 seconds repeat the call again
- If there still isn’t a reply and you don’t have to leave your boat, try another channel and break in with your distress call. Ask other vessels to transmit your distress call to shore.
- Have a pre sailing Checklist and follow it: It is always recommended that you do a vessel check before departing to make sure your boat or yacht is ready for the sea. It is good to create a written checklist that you follow that is specific to your boat. Some of the items you may wish to include on your checklist could be:
- “Sniff” test (gasoline engines)
- Run blowers for 4 minutes
- PFD’s one for each person
- Throwable flotation device
- Fire extinguishers
- Flares, horn, whistle, bell (if required)
- Check running lights (side, stern and mast light)
- Bilge and bilge pumps (check float switch)
- Fenders, boat hook and traveling dock lines
- First Aid Kit
- Radio Check
- Bucket and sponge
- Check fuel system integrity
- Check deck scuppers / Kingston valves
Get Your Boater Safety Education ID Card – Did you know that anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 must have a Boating Safety Education ID Card to legally operate a boat in Florida?
Tell us about your problem. We can help.
If you have become involved in a boating accident or have a claim involving marine insurance, or have questions please call attorney Todd C. Passman today, at (772) 465-9806 .