Whether you’re hopping on the boat for an afternoon, paddling or exploring deep depths, there are several things to consider before heading out. If you’re on a boat, remember to always designate a sober captain. Also, be aware of your surroundings for other boaters, snorkelers and paddlers and marine life. 

TIE YOUR ROPE TO MOORING BUOY’S PICK-UP LINE

Never tie the yellow pick-up line directly to your boat, as it puts undue stress on the mooring anchor. Run your boat’s bow line through the loop of the yellow pick-up line. Cleat both ends of your bow line to the bow of your boat. Never stern tie to a buoy either as this is both dangerous to you and your boat, but also puts undue strain on the mooring system. Be sure to let enough line so that the buoy is not pulled underwater and the line is horizontal.

ALWAYS HAVE A DIVER DOWN DEVICE

If you plan on taking a diver down flag with you in the water, this flag must measure 12 inches by 12 inches. ERIC BILLIPS/Contributed

This can be a divers-down flag, buoy or other similar warning device. These devices are designed for, and used by, divers and dive vessels as a way to notify nearby boaters that divers are in the water in the immediate area. On the water, the divers-down symbol must be at least 12-by-12 inches in size. 

KEEP PROPELLERS AWAY FROM SEAGRASS BEDS

Underwater seagrass/mangrove: Seagrass bed. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

Boaters should make all available attempts to avoid running through seagrass beds. Navigation charts identify seagrass beds as light green or marked as “grs” on the chart. Boaters should make all possible attempts to stay within channels when unfamiliar with a waterway. Avoid taking shortcuts through seagrass beds to avoid causing propeller scars. 

LIFE JACKETS, FLOAT PLAN AND RADIO

Captains must have a personal floatation device (life jacket) on board for every single person. Don’t stop there — make sure they are easily accessible. When things go sideways, it happens in an instance. Don’t bury the one thing that will save your life under tons of other gear. Second, file a float plan. That means that someone on shore knows where you are going (generally) and when you will be back. If plans change, let them know. Call them when you’re back on dry land. 

BRING A LIFE JACKET AND SOUND DEVICE WHILE PADDLING

Although persons on the paddleboard are not required to wear the life jacket while on Florida waters (unless they are less than 6 years of age), it is advisable to find a comfortable life jacket that you can wear or easily carry while on the water.

A “sound-producing device” is a small whistle or horn that can be heard for a least one-half nautical mile.

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