|Subscribe | What is RSS|
As Biscayne National Park staff prepare for the large crowds expected to utilize the park during Columbus Day weekend, concerns arise over protecting life, property and the natural resources of the park.
In light of the numerous boating accidents and fatalities that have occurred in South Florida during past Columbus Day weekends, and to ensure the safety of the boating public, a unified command of law enforcement officers from the Coast Guard, National Park Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission , Miami-Dade Police Department, marine Patrol Units from the Cities of Miami and Coral Gables, and special agents from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Unit of the Department of Homeland Security will be patrolling the waters and conducting safety and boating-under-the-influence checks during the Columbus Day weekend. Numerous injuries, arrests and incidents occur annually during previous Columbus Day weekends. Two individuals lost their lives in tragic accidents in 2006 and three others were killed in 2002.
“You can help save lives by following a few simple rules: ‘Have a Sober Skipper on Board’ and ‘Stay Parked After Dark’” Biscayne National Park Superintendent Mark Lewis states. The fact that alcohol is absorbed more quickly into your system in hot weather coupled with the reality that as the sun begins to set it becomes more difficult to see swimmers in the water, to recognize other boats traversing the area and to avoid grounding your vessel in the shallow areas of the bay, Lewis reiterates “Simply stated: Stay on your anchored boat after sunset”. The majority of the injuries and fatalities that have occurred over past Columbus Day Weekends have occurred after sunset.
Special regulations that will be in place Friday through Monday to protect boaters and the environment are:
- A mandatory anchorage area will be designated. No boats will be allowed to anchor outside of the designated anchorage. Within this area, all vessels must maintain a slow speed and minimum wake.
- No rafting (vessels tied together) greater than five vessels will be permitted.
- Allow a minimum of 100 feet between rafting or individual boats for emergency access.
- Any non-permitted business activities and/or commercial filming occurring throughout the weekend will be subject to fines and arrests. All equipment related to this non- permitted activity will be confiscated.
- Any low flying aircraft (less than 1000 ft. from any vessel in the anchorage) will be reported to the FAA and the pilot’s license will be suspended.
- The possession of firearms is prohibited.
Through marked and unmarked law enforcement patrols and boater cooperation, this year's Columbus Day Weekend can be safe and still be fun.
Here are a few safety tips to remember before you head out this weekend:
1. Don't drink and boat. Be responsible with drinks aboard. Designate a "sober skipper" before things get out of hand.
2. Remain anchored and on your vessel, particularly after dark. “Stay parked after dark" to prevent injuries and save lives.
3.. You are responsible for your safety and the safety of those on your vessel. Random boating safety will occur throughout the weekend. Boaters without the required safety equipment on board will be returned to the marinas. Check your safety gear to ensure it works. File a float plan with a friend or a marina, remember to wear your lifejackets, make sure you have flares and a working VHF-FM marine radio on board. A float plan form can be found at http://www.d7publicaffairs.com/.
4. Avoid groundings and know where you are going. Have navigational charts on board and learn to read them before you head out on the water. Groundings are costly to your boat, engine and the environment.
5. Be responsible with your trash and dispose of plastic bags properly. Garbage can damage to your boat and engine, resulting in costly repairs. It can also hurt marine life and the environment.