Coast Guard Reminds St. Patrick’s Day and Spring Break Boaters to Stay Safe

TAMPA, Fla. – St. Patrick’s Day and Spring Break will bring thousands of boaters to the Tampa Bay area this weekend for some fun in the sun. The Coast Guard reminds all boaters to stay safe, sober and aware while on the water this weekend.

Coast Guard law-enforcement crews will be patrolling, conducting safety checks and watching for people boating while intoxicated or operating in a unsafe manner. Boaters should be more aware of their surroundings, including watching the weather and understanding the hazards of boating under the influence of alcohol.

Weather conditions can change instantaneously. The National Weather Service broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly. The forecast can be heard by tuning into channels one through five on VHF Radio or by checking the NWS website.

In addition to monitoring the weather, boaters are reminded of the dangers of drinking while boating. The marine environment is inherently dangerous and the addition of alcohol to the mix can be deadly. Nearly 30 percent of all recreational boating fatalities can be attributed to alcohol.

In addition to decreasing the operator’s ability to make good judgments, the consumption of alcohol also negatively affects the ability of passengers to respond in the case of an emergency on the water. Intoxicated boaters can face both federal and state charges with penalties of up to one year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.

Federal laws mandate that boaters 13-years of age and under must wear lifejackets while underway, however, the Coast Guard strongly encourages that ALL boaters wear a lifejacket.

The Coast Guard also recommends that boaters file a float plan with a friend or family member staying ashore, an example can be found at the Coast Guard Auxiliary site. The Coast Guard encourages that boaters have a working VHF radio and EPIRB on board and observe safety and security zones while on the water this St. Patrick’s Day weekend and during your Spring Break vacation.

Additional information on safe and secure boating practices can be found at the Coast Guard’s Office of Boating Safety page or by calling (800) 368-5647.

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