Usually when you think of boating in and around Florida you think of bright sun and balmy temperatures. In light of some unusual weather this year, the U.S. Coast Guard is urging mariners to exercise extreme caution due to high winds and dangerous surf conditions currently affecting the west coast of Florida, with large swells and breaking waves of 10-15 feet or larger expected.
Coast Guard Watchstanders at Sector St. Petersburg, Fla., continue to monitor the weather and are expecting the high winds and heavy seas to continue, creating potentially dangerous conditions for boaters within the Tampa Bay, as well as offshore.
“Boaters should take this weather system seriously and stay off the water until the high winds and waves subside,” said Capt. Sheryl Dickinson, Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg commander and Captain of the Port. “This strong system not only impacts commercial shipping and recreational boating, but also limits our own ability to conduct search and rescue operations. We continue to monitor the sea conditions and winds at the entrance of Tampa Bay.”
Vessels and facility operators, recreational boaters and people conducting activities in the ocean, should pay close attention and monitor this situation through updated National Weather Service advisories and take appropriate action to minimize the risks associated with these predicted conditions.
Boating and Water Safety Tips:
Check the weather before casting off and monitor the weather by radio continuously.
It is recommended that everyone always wear a life jacket when in the water, but at a minimum have a properly fitting life jacket for every person on board and ensure that they are quickly accessible. Often, when trouble happens, it happens fast.
Know the boat you are on, including the location and operation of all safety gear, including a VHF-marine radio. This is especially true if renting or borrowing a boat that you may not be familiar with.
Do not rely on cell phones as a primary means of distress communication. Coverage is unreliable and communications are only point-to-point, limiting the chances of a Good Samaritan coming to your aid and if you get cut-off the call may not be reestablished. Radio is your best bet to communicate trouble and get help to you quickly.
A float plan should be prepared and shared with friends and family. That will give them an idea of where you are going and when you will return home. The float plan has all pertinent information about your boat, increasing your chances of being rescued. You can download a float plan at: http://www.floatplancentral.org/.