National Safe Boating Week promotes water safety

National Safe Boating Week emphasizes boater safety
Jewfish Key is a popular gathering spot for local boaters. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – National Safe Boating Week is a great time to have your watercraft inspected and brush up on how to stay safe while having fun on the water.

Anna Maria resident and Anna Maria Island Sail & Power Squadron Commander David Haddox says National Safe Boating Week – Saturday, May 21 through Friday, May 27 – is a good time to consider these sobering statistics on boating safety.

According to the United States Coast Guard’s 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics report, “In calendar year 2020, the Coast Guard counted 5,265 accidents that involved 767 deaths, 3,191 injuries and approximately $62.5 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents. There is evidence that boating activity rose significantly during the pandemic – from reports of increased boat sales, insurance policies taken out, insurance claims and calls for towing assistance.

The fatality rate was 6.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, representing a 25% increase from the 2019 fatality rate of 5.2 deaths per 100,000. Compared to 2019, the number of accidents increased 26.3%, the number of deaths increased 25.1%, and the number of injuries increased 24.7%, according to the report. Eight out of every 10 boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length, and where the cause of death was known, 75% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those, 86% were not wearing a life jacket.

Alcohol was listed as the leading factor in 18% of deaths, the report notes.

“There were 247 accidents in which at least one person was struck by a propeller. Collectively, these accidents resulted in 39 deaths and 241 injuries. Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed and machinery failure rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents. The vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were open motorboats (50%), kayaks (15%) and pontoons (9%),” according to the report.

“Only 12% percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator was known to have received a nationally-approved boating safety education certificate. 77% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction.”

Inspections and boating classes

The Anna Maria Island Sail & Power Squadron is affiliated with the United States Power Squadron, America’s Boating Club and America’s Boating Club for the Bradenton Area.

Regarding boating safety instruction, Haddox said the Bradenton chapter of America’s Boating Club offers the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission-approved America’s Boating Course several times a year.

“In order to operate a motorboat of 10 horsepower or greater, 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,” according to the FWC website.

National Safe Boating Week emphasizes boater safety
Commander David Haddox, right, recently reviewed fire extinguisher labeling with vessel owner Mark Pyke. – Marsha McAllister | Submitted

Haddox said the Bradenton chapter also offers a free, voluntary Vessel Safety Check (VSC) for powerboats, personal watercraft, sailboats, kayaks, canoes, SUP boards and surf skis. He said an inspection takes about 30 minutes and can be done on the water or on land, with an annual decal awarded to every vessel that passes inspection.

“VSCs are a great way to ensure you have the required and other equipment to enjoy a safe day on the water, especially with the new cut-off switch and fire extinguisher regulations in effect,” Haddox said.

To register for a course or to schedule a Vessel Safety Check, call or text 941-447-7845 or email amispsbridge@gmail.com.