Each year many people are injured or die in boating accidents, many of which could have been avoided with a little preparation.
While boating in the park or anywhere, keep the following basics in mind:
- Never drink and drive your boat
- Never sit on bow or gunwales while underway
- Always maintain proper lookout
- Always operate at a safe speed
- When you see a vessel flying a divers down flag or an alpha flag, maintain at least a 300-foot distance. Vessels approaching divers-down flags closer than 300 feet must slow their vessels to idle speed.
- While towing water skiers or rafts, the person being towed must be wearing a lifejacket and the vessel must have a competent observer in addition to the boat operator
- Remember to observe boating's Rules of the Road. Learn more at the US Coast Guard's Boating Safety website or at the State of Florida's Boating Safety page.
- Attend a Safe Boating Course offered by the local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadron chapter.
For those who wish to improve their boating skills, free boating education classes are available to the public. The class is offered every three to four months depending on how many people have signed up for the courses.
- The class is free for the general public and $50 for those taking it as a requirement.
- Class topics include; park natural and cultural resources, boating safety, navigation rules, boat groundings, boater liability in federal parks, and how to get involved at Biscayne and Everglades National Parks.
- The contact number for further information on the class is 305-230-1144 extension 041.
- Spanish-language classes are scheduled as needed and according to interest (Spanish version of boating education class brochure).
Safety equipment can save lives and allow you to relax and enjoy your time on the water. Contact your nearest U.S. Coast Guard Station about receiving a free brochure or visit the USCG Boating Safety website. Also, local chapters of U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary perform courtesy boat inspections at many marinas.
- Lifejackets (1 per person in the correct size) All children under 6 years old on vessels less than 26 feet must be wearing an appropriately-sized lifejacket while underway.
- Throwable type IV flotation device (vessels over 16 feet).
- Fire extinguisher
- Visual distress kit.
- Sound making device (horn or whistle).
- Dive flag (if snorkeling or diving). The size of divers-down flags displayed on vessels should be 20 inches by 24 inches, and a stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. Dive flags carried on floats may be 12 inches by 12 inches. Also, divers-down flags on vessels must be displayed so that the flag's visibility is not obstructed.
- Anchor and line
- Radio (with US Coast Guard hailing and distress Channel 16)
- Nautical Chart so you don't run aground
- First aid kit