New Year’s Eve is fast approaching, and a fantastic place to spend with family and friends viewing one of our area’s many fireworks displays can be from the deck of your boat. Southwest Florida’s waterways and shorelines allow for some pretty spectacular views, and something about being on a boat and watching the spectacle unfold over water makes it particularly memorable.

However, it’s easy to get caught up in the festivities and forget to exercise caution when boating during the New Year’s holiday. There could be increased boat traffic and potentially hazardous weather conditions this time of year. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Check the weather forecast before setting out on the water. Strong winds, rough waves, and colder temperatures can create dangerous conditions for boating.
  2.   When it comes to navigation and visibility, boating at night presents its own challenges, especially considering the potential for crowded or smoky conditions. Be aware of your surroundings, particularly your proximity to other vessels, the shoreline, or any exclusion zones for the fireworks display. 
  3. Wear a life jacket at all times. In an emergency, a life jacket can help keep you afloat and make it easier to be rescued. And remember, children under six years of age in Florida are required to wear a life jacket while on any vessel less than 26 feet.
  4. Stay sober. Alcohol can impair your judgment and reaction time, making it more challenging to operate a boat safely. And boating under the influence carries many of the same penalties as a DUI, so designate a driver if alcohol is involved.
  5. Have a float plan. Make sure someone on land knows where you are going and when you plan to return. This should include how to get home in the dark. Preplan your route, including awareness of channel marker locations and any boating regulation zones, such as no wake or hazards. 
  6. Bring a means of communication. Carry a marine radio or a phone in a waterproof bag to stay in touch with other boats and the land.

By following these safety tips, you can help ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable boating experience during the New Year’s holiday.

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