Southwest Florida boat dealers and marinas are reporting significant increases in boat sales and rentals as families look for COVID-friendly alternatives for vacation and leisure.
In April, our Fort Myers boat accident attorneys reported in Boating Injuries a Pandemic Risk that an increase in boaters – particularly an increase in novice boaters – would likely lead to an increased risk of reportable accidents during Southwest Florida’s summer boating season, which is typically the slowest time of the year.
Florida is a boater’s paradise. The state’s 1 million vessels puts more boats off Florida’s coast than anywhere else in the nation, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. But with all that fun in the sun comes an assumption of risk, and potential liabilities.
New Boater Safety Tips
Much like driving on the road, operating a boat safely on the water takes knowledge, skill and proactive measures to help ensure the safety of all aboard.
Our top recommendations for safe boating in SWFL include:
- Boater Safety Courses: The FWC offers a list of approved Florida boater safety courses. Aspiring sailors can take 101-103 safety courses through the American Sailing Association, which covers sailing basics and coastal cruising in fair weather. Florida law requires anyone who was born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 to successfully complete an approved boating safety course and obtain a Boating Safety Education Identification Card issued by the FWC. While there is no such requirement for adults, taking a boater safety course should be considered the minimum to safely pilot a vessel on the inland waters of Southwest Florida.
- Insurance: Be aware that new boaters may have difficulty obtaining insurance. Re-insurers (those entities insurance companies use to insure against astronomical losses), typically only permit an insurance company to hold 10 percent of business insuring Florida vessels. Having a comprehensive policy that insures against liability is vital to protecting yourself from potential financial losses.
- Weather: Hurricane season is essentially unavoidable if you are a boat owner in Southwest Florida. Having a hurricane plan can help mitigate the risk. However, most of the weather risk to boaters comes from more mundane storms. Florida’s regular summer thunderstorms can be an ordeal when offshore, and lightning strikes are a real threat.
- Rights-of-way: If you have taken a boater safety course, you know there is a hierarchy on the water. Commercial vessels engaged in fishing, barges, and other low-maneuvering vessels have the right of way. Sailboats typically have the right of way over motorized vessels. Those being overtaken have the right of way over a passing vessel. But just because you have the right of way does not mean you are not obligated to avoid an accident.
- Navigating: Know your route. File a float plan. Let people know where you are going and when you expect to return. Keep your boat provisioned for a longer voyage in case you become grounded or stranded.
- Docking and anchoring: More accidents occur at these locations than anywhere else on the water. Understand and practice your docking and anchoring maneuvers regularly.
Boating can provide a lifetime of enjoyment for those willing to invest the time and vigilance.
If you or a loved one is injured in a boating accident, call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.