I wanted to take a moment and draft this Blog on a topic that I am passionate about. As I was getting ready to head to the water this weekend I watched a news report regarding missing boaters in Lake Okeechobee. The two anglers were both tournament bass fisherman and neither made it back to the weigh-in location on that night of the tournament. One of the fisherman was later found and the other is still missing. The missing boater is actually one of our own, he is from Apopka.
The troubling part of all of this is that I love to fish and be on the water as do many of you. These stories are always so hard to deal with; especially when you spend as much time on the water as I do. I am on the water at least a few hours each week. Anybody that knows me, knows that when I am not working I am on the water. I’ve been fishing and boating my whole life. I’ve logged countless hours in bodies of water all over the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, the Caribbean and even Europe. Even with my experience I constantly check my gauges, navigation tools, sea conditions and safety equipment. Unfortunately, staying as vigilant as possible may not be enough. The perils that one may find on the water are many and one can never be too prepared.
Most people get so consumed by the thrill and excitement of being out on a boat that they often forget or overlook so many important and life changing factors. Most experienced boaters often joke about the inexperienced boaters we see at the boat ramp and out on the water yet many of us just pass by and rarely offer to help; I too have fallen into this category. Sometimes we do this because we selfishly want to get to where we are going and other times because we offered to help and were rudely turned away. We all know the type who flatly refuse help, and takes offense to anyone offering it, regardless of the situation and we all know these are the individuals that really need the most help.
Let’s face it, getting a boat and taking it to the water is relatively easy. Decent credit and a tow vehicle will suffice for most people to find their way to a boat ramp. Unlike an automobile there are no required boating safety or boating operation requirements for adults in Florida with a valid driver’s license. Driving a car and operating a boat have very few similarities and most inexperienced boaters learn this lesson the hard way. The problem is that boating accidents are not exclusive to inexperienced boaters. The two boaters referenced above were highly experienced boaters. Tournament bass fisherman spend 2-4 days on the water every week between practice and tournaments. These anglers are highly experienced boaters and yet even they fell victim to the immense hazards that can occur while operating a boat. We should all strive to assist and offer advice, guidance or even a helping hand when we see those in need on the water. Boating can be quite dangerous and we all need to work to make sure we take every possible precaution and step to ensure that we come home every time we push off from the dock.
My heart and my prayers are with these two anger’s families. For the one family they are assisting a recovering loved one who is still in the hospital. For the other family they are holding on to hope that their loved one will be found alive and I pray that this will happen soon. My objective in drafting this Blog is to promote awareness for all boaters. We love what we do so much that we need to be vigilant at all times and work to improve the safety and training procedures so that our beloved waterways throughout Florida will be safe and enjoyable for all.
Boating safety is of the utmost importance, and following the laws of the water are too. If you have received a citation or have been arrested due to an incident on the water, contact the law firm of Schwam-Wilcox & Associates.