Buresh Blog: Boat Safety... NOAA Hurricane Season Forecast... Tax Holiday... Hurricane Guide

FSU Hurricane Study

Jacksonville, FL — ‘Tis the season for boating which brings us to boat safety. Make sure you know & understand the weather forecast - including updates! - before hitting the water. From the Water Sports Foundation:

With a 35% increase in new boat ownership and 830,000 new boaters taking to the waterways since 2020, boating participation will reach historic levels of participation this summer, says Water Sports Foundation Executive Director Jim Emmons.

With the Memorial Day holiday traditionally serving as the kick-off to summer boating activity, Emmons says the Water Sports Foundation is taking a pro-active approach to promoting safe boating strategies prior to the busy season.

“Especially with so many new boaters gearing up for a fun season of activity on our nation’s crowded waterways, we felt it was important to share these tips to keep boaters safe and alert this year,” said Emmons.

#1 – Take a Boating Safety Class or Refresher

The Water Sports Foundation recently reported a major surge in online education Water Sports Foundation Reports Pandemic Spike in Online Boater Education – Water Sports Foundation with many safety organizations now offering virtual training options in addition to traditional live instruction. In many states, new boaters are required to take mandated boater ed classes, but now there is a wealth of new online and hybrid classes also available on a variety of boating topics and for all skill levels, through public and private providers.

“Whether a seasoned skipper or a boating newbie, everyone can benefit from a boating safety class, especially when it’s now just an easy click away,” said Emmons. For a list of educational resources, check out the National Boating Safety Media Resource Center: Boating Safety Education – Water Sports Foundation

#2 – Buckle Up!

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, drowning is the cause of death in 79 percent of fatal boating accidents where the cause of death was known; 86 percent of those drowning victims were not wearing life jackets.  To maximize safety, make sure everyone on board has been properly fitted with a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, and wears it while underway.

#3 –Designate a Sober Skipper

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. In fact, where the primary cause was known, it was the leading factor in 23% of deaths.

“For the safety of not only your crew, but others sharing the waterways, we recommend avoiding alcohol altogether while boating, or at the very least, the driver should take the pledge to be a sober skipper,” said Emmons.  Video: Designated Sober Skipper – Family – Water Sports Foundation

#4 – Pre-Season Boating Safety Vessel & Equipment Checks

If it’s been awhile since you’ve taken your boat out, invest in a complimentary boating safety vessel check provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in your area. Make sure you’re thoroughly familiar with the operating instructions of your vessel and ensure your equipment is in proper working condition prior to departure. In addition, carry and be proficient in the operation of a VHF radio, EPIRB or personal locator beacon.

Boaters should be aware of two recent federal laws regarding required safety equipment. Effective April 2022, boaters must replace fire extinguishers that are 12 years or older, including both disposable and rechargeable units, with the age starting from manufacture date, not purchase. In April 2021, another federal law was passed requiring operators of boats under 26′ to use an engine cut off switch link (ECOS-L), an onboard safety device that stops a boat’s engine if the operator is throw off the boat. Wireless versions are also available.

#5 – Be Smart: File a Float Plan

Before departure, prepare a simple document known as a “float plan” and share with family members, friends and/or your marina staff that includes a list of your crew members, their contact information including cell numbers, along with your itinerary including all destination(s) and your expected return time. This document may prove a life saver should search activities be required.

#6 – All Aboard: Crew Communication

At the dock and before departure, the captain should review boating safety requirements with everyone, clearly explaining safety protocols and expectations, especially if new boaters are aboard.

Each passenger should be assigned a designated seat and be instructed to remain securely seated when the boat is underway. The captain should communicate life jacket usage and positioning of throw cushions or other devices, the appointment of observers to watch for oncoming traffic or to monitor water sports activity, etc.

NOTE: Captains should ensure the number of passengers and their collective weight complies with the designated maximum capacity rating to prevent overloading of the vessel.

#7 – Weather or Not to Go …

Prior to planning or launching your boating adventure, consult weather forecasts and conditions. Don’t go if the weather is unfavorable.

In certain parts of the country, weather conditions can change in a flash, so monitor regularly using available mobile APPS. Storms, lightning, changing tides, currents, winds and other inclement weather conditions can endanger the safety of boaters.

If you find yourself navigating rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, find shelter as soon as possible. If your return plans are impacted, be sure to update anyone with whom you filed a float plan regarding plan modifications.

#8- Slow Down!

Accidents can often be avoided when captains obey the posted speed limit and follow rules established to keep boaters safe. Be aware and follow all speed limits and no wake zones.

#9 - Focus!

Many boating accidents are reportedly the direct result of operator distraction or inattention. The designated skipper needs to be especially vigilant and to assume full responsibility for the safety of all those aboard.  Focus is the watchword!

#10 – Pick Your Playgrounds with Care

Busy boating holidays generate busy boating traffic. With that in mind, carefully consider your destinations. If you’re a new boater, avoid the most popular boating venues where the ability to navigate, drop and set anchors and lines in confined spaces is particularly challenging. Choose a less crowded spot while you get your sea legs beneath you.

From “Save the Manatee”:

Save the Manatee Club is a proud partner of National Safe Boating Week, which runs from May 21-27, 2022 and promotes recreational boating safety. The annual campaign, which kicks off the week before Memorial Day weekend, is an opportunity for Save the Manatee Club to remind boaters of manatee-safe boating tips.

While the primary focus around manatees over the past two years has rightfully been on the devastating Unusual Mortality Event for manatees in and around the Indian River Lagoon, it is important to remember that encounters with watercraft remain a major cause of manatee injuries and deaths. Nearly every living manatee bears scars from encounters with propellers, and blunt force trauma from a high-speed collision with any part of a boat is likely to cause injuries leading to death. Entanglement in or ingestion of improperly discarded fishing line can cause death or disfigurement.

Fortunately, staying manatee-safe on the water can be as simple as learning and following manatee safety tips, most of which apply not just to motorboat operators, but to those on jet skis or paddlecraft as well:

  • Become familiar with and obey posted speed zone signs;
  • Wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare and see below the water’s surface;
  • Learn and look out for telltale signs of manatees in the area, notably a swirl or flat spot on the water that is created by the motion of the manatee’s tail when it dives or swims, or a break in the water created by a manatee’s snout, back, tail, or flipper;
  • Keep away from posted manatee sanctuaries and always remain a safe distance away if you encounter a manatee. Never pursue or harass a manatee;
  • Immediately report distressed, injured, tagged, or orphaned manatees to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or by using VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio;
  • Avoid boating over seagrass beds and shallow areas where manatees might be feeding. Stay in deep water channels when boating, but be aware that manatees also use deep water channels when traveling;
  • Anglers: take care to reel in and properly dispose of or recycle your used fishing line.

“Due to the heartbreaking number of manatee deaths over the past two years, members of the public are increasingly concerned with doing all they can to come to the aid of our imperiled manatees,” said Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club. “Everyone on the water can do their part to protect manatees right now by following the safety guidelines that prevent  manatee injuries and deaths, and make our waterways safe, fun places for humans and manatees alike.”

Save the Manatee Club offers free materials for boaters, paddlers, and waterfront property owners to help promote manatee safety. These include aluminum signs alerting to the presence of manatees in waterways, a waterproof “Manatees Below” banner, and a decal with the number to report manatees in distress. These free resources can be ordered at savethemanatee.org/resources.

The Atlantic hurricane season is fast approaching.

NOAA has issued their seasonal hurricane forecast for the Atlantic. No surprise, the season is expected to be active largely predicated on the ongoing La Nina (cooling of the equatorial Pacific sea surface temps.):

The map below shows the cool water (La Nina) extending from the S. American coast west to near 160E:

Atlantic Basin water temps. are generally not exceptionally warm but also showing few cool “spots”. Warmest areas - compared to avg. - are over parts of the Gulf & Central & Northwest Atlantic.

Remember the Florida hurricane tax holiday - May 28th - June 10th - .... & this year the tax free goods includes some pet supplies - click * here * for the Action News Jax story.

You can download the First Alert Hurricane Guide * here *.

Florida State University is - for the 2nd year in a row - conducting a survey of the NHC “Cone of Uncertainty” & needs your help! - click * here to participate*.

According the researchers: The Cone of Uncertainty (COU) is an infographic produced by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) to indicate the potential path of a tropical system. Currently, the shape of the cone encompasses two-thirds of official NHC forecast errors over the previous 5-years. However, the NHC is considering a new methodology that could improve the public’s pre-storm preparation tendencies by helping people understand the level of uncertainty in forecasting a tropical cyclone’s track. Making the shape of the cone dependent on weather model spreads, a wide cone would communicate low confidence in a track forecast while a narrow cone would communicate high confidence. This study will evaluate the correlation between people’s awareness and preparation tendencies prior to a landfalling cyclone and their understanding of the level of certainty in a tropical system’s track forecast.

Grace, 2021 & the forecast cone: