Boating Safety

Boating Safety
Posted on 01/18/2017

Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts attract plenty of boaters year-round and Florida leads the nation with nearly one million registered boats. Before venturing out on the water, it is important for boaters to check on the weather. What may seem like a tranquil start to the day can quickly turn violent with hazards such as severe thunderstorms, strong winds, rough seas, lightning and waterspouts.

One way to be sure you are safe while boating is to check the marine forecasts issued by the local National Weather Service Offices when planning your voyage. Stay in port if thunderstorms are expected. If you decide to venture out into the open waters, remember that lightning presents the greatest danger to boaters.Be prepared to seek safe shelter anytime lightning is seen or thunder is heard. Never let thunderstorms cut off your route back to land.

If a thunderstorm or waterspout threatens, it is best to seek safe harbor immediately. If you are unable to get back to the dock, be sure everyone aboard is wearing a life jacket, as gusty thunderstorm winds or waterspouts can quickly overturn small boats. If lightning is nearby, get low or head below deck, and stay away from masts and ungrounded metal objects. If caught near a waterspout,your best course of evasive action is to move at a 90 degree angle from its apparent movement, then seek safe harbor, if possible.

DID YOU KNOW??? Thunderstorms with frequent cloud-to ground lightning often affect the inland lakes and rivers during the afternoon, while early morning lightning storms are more common along the coast.

Knowing what kind of weather to expect is one of the keys to staying safe during your boating adventure. There are a few things that you can do to protect yourself from the dangers of rip currents and marine hazards. Before you leave, check the latest National Weather Service forecast for local beach and boating conditions. National Weather Service offices around Florida issue a surf zone forecast and coastal waters forecast each day,which includes the expected rip current risk and marine conditions. These forecasts should be your primary tools for planning a safe day on the water.

At the beach, look for the nearest lifeguards and check with them about existing water conditions. If you're going to a beach with no lifeguard on duty, look for warning flags or signs. Since 2006, approximately 80% of all rip current-related drowning incidents in Florida occurred at unguarded beaches.

If you find yourself caught in a rip current, don’t panic and don’t fight the current. Swim in a direction parallel to the shoreline either toward your left or right. Just remembering the simple phrase “Don’t fight...Swim left or right” could save your life. When free of the current, swim at an angle back toward shore.

For more information on marine hazards and what you can do to protect yourself and others can be found at