The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) urges boat owners to properly secure their boats in advance of sustained heavy winds from Tropical Storm Ida, which threatens the coast of the Panhandle.
Vessels that break free can cause problems to waterways in the form of fuel and oil pollution; boats drifting into bridges, docks, seawalls and piers; interference with navigation; and damage to the boats themselves.
“Now is the time to properly secure your vessel to make sure it doesn’t break free and cause damage to property or result in people getting injured,” said Capt. Carol Keyser with FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section.
If boat owners trailer their boats, the FWC recommends they secure their vessels in a safe location, let some air out of the trailer tires, block the wheels and, if possible, anchor the boat down and/or add weight to help keep the boat in place.
According to Florida law, marinas can’t force vessels to be removed following a hurricane watch or warning. Florida also has laws that relate to abandoned vessels. The state is often overwhelmed with lost, abandoned and damaged vessels following significant weather events.
Citizens are encouraged to call their local law enforcement agencies or the FWC at 888-404-3922 to report vessels that have broken free.
The FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement and other law enforcement agencies are often tasked with helping people who intentionally put themselves at risk, such as personal watercraft operators who view the high waves created by a storm as an opportunity to jump waves.
“Thrill-seekers are advised to avoid the waters and high winds created from the storm,” Keyser said. “Please keep in mind that when people choose to act irresponsibly, they jeopardize others. They cause law enforcement officers, rescue workers and other emergency personnel to risk their lives unnecessarily.”
Information on properly mooring vessels, how to report debris and other helpful information is available at MyFWC.com/Boating/. Damaged markers can be reported to 866-405-BUOY.