Plot a Course for Boating Safety

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Last Saturday, I was running the Intracoastal Waterway in Tampa Bay at 24 knots when, as I came to a channel that crosses the ICW, I observed a fast-moving boat approaching on my port side. Knowing that he was the give-way vessel, I expected he’d slow down until I cleared. I thought: Does he know the rule?

He obviously didn’t or, worse, wasn’t paying attention because when I realized we’d likely meet at the crossroad, I throttled back while he sped across the channel. Maybe he was one of those new boaters who recently joined our lifestyle but hasn’t learned the Rules of the Road. Or perhaps he’s been a boater for some time and still hasn’t learned the rules.

Either way, it was a clear reminder that National Safe Boating Week kicks off this Saturday. With all the newcomers plying our waterways, dealers in particular need to determinedly promote safe boating to their customers.

“We’re seeing more boats than ever on our waterways, and that’s great for our members,” says John Good, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of Southwest Florida and Tampa Bay. “But it must also raise concern for our business long term when it appears so many out there are simply clueless about the boating basics.

“When news footage about accidents and injuries makes the daily TV, it won’t help us sell the joy of boating,” he adds.Our industry has an obligation to do everything possible to better educate and inform boaters and help make our waters safe.”

MIASF&TB has been asked by local marine law enforcement units for help. Teaming up with the West Coast Inland Navigation District, the association will host a forum with marine businesses and law enforcement to address the issue.

“Every marine business that has regular contact with boaters should attend this forum to get to know the personnel from local marine units and participate in a discussion that will benefit us all,” Good says. “While all are welcome, this first forum will focus on Sarasota and Manatee counties. Marine businesses in those counties — particularly boat dealers, marina operators, PWC rentals and boat clubs — should make it a priority to attend.”

MIASF&TB plans to host similar forums for Lee and Charlotte counties, and another for the Tampa Bay area.

The Sarasota/Manatee forum is slated for June 9 at the Venice Community Center from 9 a.m. to 12:30 pm. Lunch is included. To register, email justin@wcind.com and copy john@swfmia.com.

Free Safe Boating Materials

The National Safe Boating Council can help dealers share information about responsible boating through digital outreach, launch point reminders, outreach events, vessel safety checks and more. The Safe Boating Campaign offers several free resources to support outreach efforts.

Downloadable resources include a library of posters, social media images, PSAs, radio spots, and more. And don’t forget “Wear Your Life Jacket at Work Day” for your team’s participation, a possible local media interest story if you contact local news outlets.

There’s also a “Safe Boating Brochures Box.” This includes a variety of safety brochures to support local outreach efforts. Claim a box here.

Bottom line: All the details on how to support the Safe Boating Campaign in your local community and online is in the National Safe Boating Week toolkit. And remember, promoting and teaching safe boating practices is a year-round responsibility, not a one-week promotion.

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