Duval County

Boat crashes up by 16%: how to stay safe on the water this holiday weekend

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — Most people agree; the water is the place to be during summertime in Florida.

However, like most things, boating and other water activities come with risks.

In an effort to spread more awareness, Tyler Barrus, training captain with Freedom Boat Club took us out on the water to explain some precautions families should follow.

“Most boating accidents happen right here in the marina,” Barrus said. “People -- generally speaking -- they just leave the boat in gear too long. They don’t realize that boats take time. It takes time for things to happen on a boat.”

In 2020, Florida had 836 boating accidents, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). That is up by 16% compared to 2019. The latest FWC report said 79 people lost their lives in boating accidents in 2020, compared to 2019 when 65 people died. Since 2003, the leading cause of fatal accidents is falling overboard. The leading cause of death: drowning.

“It’s a known fact that most drownings occur because people aren’t wearing personal flotation devices,” Barrus said.

But the everyday injuries mostly happen at the dock.

“Probably the biggest injury you’re going to see is people putting their hands outside the gunnel of the boat,” Barrus said. “Keep your hands inside the boat. Don’t use your hands or legs to stop a boat.”

Boating classes are offered at the Beach Marina in Jacksonville Beach. Visit “Jacksonville the boat class,” or click HERE for more information.

A basic course is open to four people per boat. Pricing ranges: $149 for the first seat and $50 for each additional seat or $299 for the entire boat.

The intermediate course is for three people. Pricing ranges: $199 per seat and $75 for additional seats or $349 for the entire boat.

For more information, contact Luke Bickerstaff at Luke.bickerstaff@freedomboatclub.com or call 904-352-5522.