Miami Vacationer’s Guide to Boating During the Holidays

family on sailboat

7 Tips for Staying Safe While Boating This Holiday Season  

As the holiday season approaches, snowbirds begin to migrate to the warm Miami shoreline. There is nothing quite as majestic as taking a boat out on the deep blue South Florida waters during the winter months. If you plan on boating while vacationing in Miami this winter, it is important to follow local, state, and federal guidelines for staying safe on the water.  

At Mase Mebane Seitz, we represent individuals who have been hurt or killed in Miami boating accidents. Whether your injuries were due to a negligent operator or a rental company’s lack of proper safety gear, we can help. Contact our office at (844) 627-3529 for a free consultation.  

Follow these tips while boating during your Miami vacation this holiday season: 

1. Know the Local Waterways 

If you are planning on taking a boat out on the water, be sure you know where you are going. You can contact the local waterway manager to determine whether there are any operating restrictions if you are unfamiliar with the area.  

The more you know about where you will be boating and any waterway hazards, the better. You can research online or take a local boating safety education course to prepare yourself.  

2. Learn About Local Water Hazards 

Getting to know where you will be boating includes learning about water conditions, such as tides, that may affect where you can safely boat. It is a good idea to talk to local boat enthusiasts about any safety concerns on the water.  

Familiarize yourself with these local water hazards: 

  • Bridges and low-head dams 
  • Areas known for strong currents 
  • Power lines 
  • Underwater pipes and cables 
  • Sandbars 
  • Trees, rocks, etc. 
  • Abnormal Tides 
  • Places where there may be heavy boating traffic 

It is a good idea to review local marine charts before taking a boat out for the holiday season. The more you know about the area, the safer you and your passengers will be. 

3. Get Your Florida Boating Safety ID Card 

Florida law requires anyone born on or after January 1, 1988, that will be operating a boat with an engine of 10 horsepower or more to complete a boating safety course and obtain a Florida Boating Safety ID Card.  

If you are vacationing in Florida, you can obtain a temporary certificate from a vendor to satisfy any operating requirements. Temporary certificates are valid for 90 days. 

4. Develop a Safety Plan 

Planning ahead is everything. If you plan on boating in Miami this holiday season, consider developing a safety plan. Make sure that you have the correct number of personal floatation devices aboard and that they are accessible. Make a float plan and have it on file.  

You should also conduct an inspection of your vessel. Test the lights to ensure that they are operational. Check for your onboard fire extinguisher and make sure it is in working order. Smell for fumes and make sure that you have proper ventilation.   

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary offers a free vessel safety check to ensure that your boat complies with state and federal laws. 

5. Never Boat Under the Influence (BUI) of Drugs or Alcohol 

Boating under the influence (BUI) is a serious criminal offense in the state of Florida. You can be convicted of a BUI if you take any substance that impairs your ability to safely operate a vessel.  

Florida laws regarding BUI:  

  • It is unlawful to operate a vessel while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, controlled substance, or other drugs as defined by state law.
     
  • A person is presumed to be impaired and therefore under the influence of alcohol if they have a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or more.
     
  • A person convicted of a first offense BUI will face a fine of $500 – $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail.
     
  • A person convicted of a second offense BUI will face a fine of $1,000 – $2,000 and up to 9 months in jail.
  • If someone is injured or killed as a result of an operator boating under the influence, the operator can face felony charges.

The safest bet is to boat sober. Designate a sober captain and lookout who can stay alert and make decisions when weather conditions suddenly change. Alcohol is one of the leading factors in boating accident injuries. Staying sober could save your life and others. 

6. Check the Weather 

Check the weather and check it often. On the water, weather conditions can change suddenly. You should know what to do when bad weather approaches. Never take a boat out in dangerous weather. Check the local water temperature, wind direction and speed, as well as the wave height.  

There are many resources available to the public to obtain a marine forecast. Popular forecasters include the National Weather Service or by listening to broadcasts on a National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio. Our personal favorite channel for marine forecasts is an app called Windy. The important thing is to know before you go. High waves and rough seas can be difficult for even the most experienced boater. 

7. Be Cautious About Boat Rental Companies 

If you plan to rent a boat while vacationing in Miami, beware of boat rental companies with poor reviews. Inspect the vessel to ensure that it is in good condition. Ask questions when you arrive to ensure that you understand how the boat works and what safety devices the vessel has aboard.

Check that the rental company is properly licensed and insured. A quick search online can reveal a lot about the company. Pay attention to negative reviews or any safety issues that the company has had. If in doubt, go with a different company. Saving a few dollars is not worth getting stuck on the water, or worse. 

Contact Our Office for More! 

At Mase Mebane Seitz, we are looking forward to a fun, safe holiday season. Miami is vibrant during the winter months with numerous festivals and seasonal activities.

In the unfortunate event that you are involved in a boating accident while visiting Miami, contact our office for a free, no-obligation consultation. Call (844) 627-3529 to get started.