#Column: What do tequila, government meetings, and Key deer have in common? - A close up of a sign - Logo

Those of you who are regular readers may recall Keys Disease Central’s periodic and often heroic efforts to promote safer roadways and just get people to use their freakin’ turn signals. Unfortunately, there’s not much good news to report here. Florida Keys drivers still turn without bothering to signal anyone of their intentions, except for those drivers who have no intention of turning and cruise merrily along with their turn signals flashing happily, filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Anyway, with peak tourist season ahead of us, perhaps it’s time for Keys Disease Central to cast our collective gaze toward the waters. Let’s face facts: a significant percentage of those rude/boorish/inconsiderate drivers end up behind the wheel of a boat at some point during their residency in the Keys. If you think that their piloting a vessel on the water – being somewhat out of their element – might make them a bit more courteous and respectful, I have but one thing to say: ha ha ha! For them, our drivers from Hell behind the wheel of a boat, here are some rules of the waterways (and why they may or may not apply to you, o special vessel captain).

NO WAKE ZONE Signs: most of there are found in canals and inland waterways and suggest that funeral-type services are never appropriate in those locations. Slight speeding is, however, accepted and appreciated – especially by those boaters who are tied up at a dock or slip or mooring buoy. Making their boats rock and roll with the wake you leave behind is just a friendly way of saying hello, nautical style. Don’t be surprised to see those boaters waving a finger (or something else) back at you!

• THOSE SILLY MARKERS THAT ARE RED OR GREEN: These are called channel markers and are put there to show the boater where the water of navigable depth is located. Can’t remember your red and green from port or starboard? Whatever—you still have a 50 percent chance of guessing correctly. Just motor on through and see what happens.

• BOTTOM COLOR AS DEPTH INDICATOR: Remember that old seafaring saying, “Brown, brown, run aground?” Probably not. It’s just an old wives’ tale. And, after all, it’s your propeller. Full speed ahead, matey!

RUNNING LIGHTS AT NIGHT: An overrated safety feature… after all, what are the odds that someone else will be boating in the same vicinity as you at night?

• LOBSTER TRAP BUOYS: Those little buoys and floats out on the water point the way to the potential location of tasty crustaceans. While no one can remember, at least in recent memory, a trap molester actually getting murdered at sea by a pissed-off lobster fisherman, the good news is that a whole lot more of them are being prosecuted and imprisoned. So… do ya feel lucky, punk? Besides, if you run right over the lobster traps with that cool boat, the chances that you’ll get your prop tangled in a trap line are, well… I hope you have a TowBoat membership (and that the Tow Boat gets to you first). Besides, it’s still your prop, right?

These are but a few of the Rules of the Water that may or may not apply to you. Others include fishing in a designated No Take zone, lobstering out of season, bag, size, and slot limits on fish, and believing that you actually own a certain fishing spot or lobster hole. As our drivers from Hell already know, those rules are for the other guy! Just remember that being a raging jerk on the water isn’t just a solitary activity. Usually, your friends and family are out there with you to watch you go down in flames (and perhaps share your holding cell). Also remember that vessels usually burn only to the waterline. Then, what’s left just sinks to the bottom, where it will probably become a navigational hazard for others as well as a resource violation and a hefty fine for you.

Bon voyage!


* A googan is the Keys term for  an ignoramus “acting” as captain.

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