Boating this time of year can be fun, but when the weather takes a turn for the worse, it can bring risks.
Boaters should take precautions during hurricane season to avoid harm or damage to their vessel. And when a storm is brewing, boaters should head to a safe place.
“Normally if we’re asking people to start evacuating, that’s when you should get out,” said Cpl. Shawn Bogart, of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s marine bureau.
That advice may seem obvious, but some boaters ignore the signs of a storm or hurricane, choosing to stay in the water and take a chance.
Safety experts recommend taking extra precautions should boaters find themselves in a boat with a storm approaching.
“If you cannot get your boat out of the path of the storm, then we ask that you get moored, anchored or tied (down),” Bogart said. “Do everything in your power to protect the boats.”
Before getting out on the water, boaters can make some simple safety preparations. Having proper safety equipment is essential.
Boats within the state are required to be equipped with easily accessible flotation devices for each person. Boaters should also make sure the bilge pump — which can help pump water out of the bilge if a boat takes on water — is fully charged.
The boat’s captain or operator should make a plan outlining all of the information about the boat, including the route of travel, the identities of the passengers, safety equipment and the crew.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard vessel safety check list, boats 16 feet or longer must have on board a throw-able flotation device that is accessible to passengers. Vessels of this size also must have three-day and three-night pyrotechnic visual distress signals, such as a flare, or one daytime non-pyrotechnic device, such as a flag, and one nighttime non-pyrotechnic device, such as auto SOS lights.
■ If you’re putting your boat on a trailer, make sure the tires are inflated and the bearings and axles are in working condition.
■ Lash your boat to the trailer and use heavy lines to secure the boat to fixed objects, such as anchors embedded in concrete.
■ Owners of lightweight boats should consider letting air out of the trailer tires and filling the boat a third of the way with water. Use blocks to prevent damage to the springs from added weight.
■ Never leave a boat in davits or a hydro-lift.
■ For boats staying in a wet berth at a marina, double all lines and make sure they are long enough to handle storm surge and taut enough to keep the boat from hitting the dock or pilings.
■ Anyone looking for more boating safety information can call the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Station 93 in Naples: 239-261-7375.