With the week or two of cold that us Floridians call “winter” already in the rearview, you know what is just around the corner: pitch-perfect boating weather. Though you may have taken a little time off for the holiday season, the blue skies, scorching sun and warm waters on the horizon mean boaters will be coming out in droves. Unfortunately, more boaters means more cases of boating under the influence–but one group doesn’t think that has to be the case forever.
An effort to curb boating under the influence is picking up steam, called Sober Skippers. Backed by the Sea Tow Foundation, a boating safety and education group, the push to designate sober skippers before hitting the water is similar to efforts to get people to designate sober drivers on roadways and just as important.
There is a laid-back attitude in most aspects of boating, but that approach becomes dangerous, even life-threatening, when it’s applied to boating under the influence. Though you may think you can handle a couple of light beers without much effect, the truth is, operating a boat safely can be a tricky task in the best of conditions. With blowing winds, blinding sunlight, scorching temperatures, unpredictable weather conditions and even more unpredictable fellow boaters, why impair yourself further?
At Hi-Tide, we’re all for enjoying boating to the fullest, but we draw a line when fun surpasses safety. Boating under the influence is negligent and sets you and all aboard your vessel up for a completely avoidable accident. So when you hit the water this boating season, take the advice that the Sober Skipper program promotes: designate a sober skipper and, once safely back on land, buy them a beer or two. That seems like a win/win situation to us.
Alright, who’s ready to talk insurance?! Wait, where is everyone going? Sure, the topic of boat insurance isn’t quite as exciting as fishing or hurricane preparation, but we promise you, it’s well worth learning.
Though you may be familiar with the broad concepts of coverage from your experience with life, car and homeowners insurance, there are some specific nuances that every boater should know when picking the right boat insurance for them.
Boat Insurance: Do I Really Need It?
If you think you can skate by without boat insurance, then you are absolutely correct. Yes, unlike car insurance, boat insurance is not required in many states, including our home state of Florida. Of course, you should do a quick Google search to ensure that you’re properly insured based on your state requirements.
State regulations aside, is boat insurance really necessary, or is it just another bill to add atop the mound? Like many others, boat insurance is something you hope to never need but are grateful for having in the rare case that you do.
Boat insurance policies may cover:
Injury liability for passengers
Property damage to docks, marinas or other boats
Boat repair or replacement due to collision damage
Damage caused by extreme weather
Comprehensive coverage that runs the gamut from medical to accident clean up
Though each policy is different, you should look for the above coverage points and choose one that is adequate for your boat and your lifestyle. Just remember, accidents can happen (as can hurricanes).
It is also important to understand how your boat is evaluated by the insurance company. Factors include:
Horsepower and top speed
Number of owners
Area of operation
Type of boat
Age of boat
Overall condition of boat
Just as a red Ferrari F50 owned by an 18-year-old kid with a lead foot will be just a tad more expensive to insure than the 65-year-old recent retiree with a Volvo station wagon, your speedboat will likely cost more than an easy-going fishing cruiser.
Something many boaters don’t realize is that boat insurance can be bundled into certain homeowners or car insurance plans, so do your research and pick the plan that makes the most sense for you. Regardless of whether you have a superyacht or something more akin to the S.S. Minnow, insurance can save you from financial heartache and a list of potential headaches after an accident. Boat safe, but be insured, just in case.
Even if you feel like you could navigate your favorite boating spot with your eyes closed and one arm tied behind your back, there’s still one thing that many boaters–even the experts–forget to brush up on: Florida boating laws. OK, now. Stop your yawning and sneering. Knowing your boating laws goes a long way in not only ensuring safety on your next excursion, but also being able to have a better time without the worry of breaking boating regulations.
Florida Boating Laws You Should Know
From expert boaters to relative newbies, everyone on the water should know:
Speed Kills: Excessive wakes can be harmful to sea life and fellow boaters. Never create a hazardous wake, obey “minimum wake” and “slow” signs, and operate at the slowest speed possible in no-wake zones.
Registration is Required:With the exceptions of canoes, kayaks, and other row-style boats, as well as non-motor-powered boats under 16 feet long, all vessels must be registered within 30 days of purchase. Registration, which is conducted through your local tax collector’s office, must be on board at all times.
You Must Report Accidents:Like a car accident, it is illegal to leave the scene of a boating accident without first reporting it to the authorities. Additionally, you are responsible for administering as much aid as possible to those involved. If the accident involves injuries more serious than what a first-aid kit can handle or causes damages of $2,000 or higher, you must contact the sheriff’s office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as quickly as possible.
Safety Devices Save Lives:U.S.-Coast-Guard-approved personal floatation devices (PFDs) are required to be on board–one for each person. Though not mandatory by law, it is highly encouraged that every passenger (and the operator) wear PFDs at all times. Children under six years of age must wear a PFD whenever the vessel is underway. Navigation lights are required to be turned on in low visibility conditions, as well as at nighttime.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Florida boating laws and regulations, but luckily, there is an entire, easy-to-access guide full of helpful information like the above. Before hitting the water again, take a look at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website. You just may learn a thing or two.
Boating is Texas is alive and well, with thousands flocking to popular beaches, bays, rivers and lakes for some world-class fishing or scenic cruising in the Lone Star State. If you’re a local or simply visiting Texas for a bit of leisure time, make sure you know these quick takeaways before hitting the water. From age requirements to education courses, these must-learn facts can help you chart your course before heading into unknown waters.
5 Considerations Before Boating in Texas
Who to call during a boating accident? If you are involved in a boating accident that results in injury (requiring treatment beyond first aid) or death, or causes damages to property in excess of $2,000, you must report it to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). You only have 48 hours to report an accident resulting in a fatality, but 30 days to report less serious accidents.
Where can I complete my boating education? To legally operate a boat or PWC with more than 15 hp, you must first complete a boater education course, unless you were born before September 1, 1993.
Can I drink while operating a boat? Open container laws do not apply to watercraft. However, operating a boat while intoxicated is a crime that could result in a driver license suspension, fines, or even jail time if involved in an accident while intoxicated.
What identification do I need to carry while boating? Boaters must carry a picture identification card, as well as a boater certification card (if applicable).
What’s the minimum age requirements for boating? Though boating in Texas can be fun for all ages, operators of vessels with more than 15 hp must be at least 13 years old. The same applies for windblown vessels of more than 14 feet.
The TPWD is a fantastic source of info for first-time boaters in Texas, so we highly suggest starting your research there if you have any questions about your next boating adventure. Texas is known as a big state, but also one that’s full of variety. Take advantage of that variety by exploring all the beautiful state has to offer, both on and off the water.
Whether you’re a new boater or hitting the water for the first time in a long time, boating for beginners has never been easier thanks to some great online resources and a worldwide community of boating enthusiasts that are often happy to lend advice. We love being one of these ambassadors to boating, so before your next (or first) boating trip, keep the following beginner tips in mind to have both a safety conscious and fun time with your friends and family on the water.
Boating for Beginners
Make a List and Check it Twice: Good advice for not only the inexperienced, you should always prepare and utilize a pre-departure checklist. These checklists often include the likes of battery, gas, and oil checks, life vest and safety equipment review and weather analysis to name a few. Proper preparation can make all the difference when taking your boat on the water.
Keep the Alcohol on Land: Though you may be the life of the party on land, leave the drinking for after your day of boating is done. Alcohol drastically increases the risk of boating accidents for even the most experienced of boaters.
Safety (Check) First: Did you know that the U.S. Coast Guard offers free vessel safety checks? Not only do these checks help ensure that your boat is in good shape for your next boating trip, but your inspector is also available to give you some key safety advice and answer questions that first-time boaters may have.
Plan on a Float Plan: An easy way to give yourself an additional level of safety is to create a float plan. By filling out a float plan and leaving in the hands of a trusted individual on shore, you give yourself a safety net that provides a description of your vessel, a list of your passengers and planned whereabouts, all of which can be vital to your rescue if you don’t report
Don’t be a Showboat: Operate your vessel safely and obey all posted speed and wake limits. Especially when just getting the hang of your vessel, it’s important to never be reckless while on the water. Stay vigilant and obey the laws of the waterway.
Boating can seem intimidating to some newcomers, but if you’re armed with these safety best practices, you and yours can enjoy the passion of boating that we all share. With a bit of practice, knowledge and experience, boating for beginners can be a breeze.
Information Cited: http://www.discoverboating.com/beginner/safety/tips.aspx