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Boater Safety Class Available Saturday, Dec. 16, on Fort Myers Beach

As visitors and snowbirds head south, boating season is beginning to ramp up. Whether boating enthusiasts plan to explore inlets and cays in the bays, or head out into the open Gulf of Mexico, safety is paramount. That's why the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is hosting a boating safety classthis Saturday. The class on Fort Myers Beach is Saturday, December 16th at the Pine Ridge Community Center, located at 15699 Pine Ridge Rd. in the Iona area of Fort Myers, next to the Iona McGregor Fire Station and across from the tax collector’s office.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife 2022 Boating Accident Statistical Report, Florida had 735 boating accidents in 2022, 16 fewer than in 2021. A total of 65 people lost their lives in these accidents, five more than the previous year. Since 2003, falls overboard has been the leading type of fatal accident, with drowning as the leading cause of death. Of the drowning victims, 81% were not wearing a life jacket.

The FWC report also stated that the primary causes of all reported boating accidents (almost half, at 43%) were improper lookout or attention and operator inexperience. Operator inexperience can be attributed to the operator’s limited time or experience with the vessel, the area or the weather.

Lack of boater education was also a contributing factor in accidents.

As a result, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary 91 Flotilla in District 7 on Fort Myers Beach is encouraging all boating enthusiasts to take the one-day Responsible Boating class and receive a boating safety certificate.

Daniel Eaton with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary 91D7 said he believed the biggest safety challenge for many boaters, especially those from up north, is ego and complacency.

"You know, you get the people that say, “I've been boating for a while and I know what I'm doing. I boat up north all the time,” right? The areas down here are substantially different than inland lakes of the north."

He identified "skinny water" (or shallow water) and shifting tides as factors that are substantially different from inland lakes.

"One of the big takeaways I hear from people that take our classes is they say, 'I didn't realize what I didn't know.' How important is that?" said Eaton. "So basically the Boat America class on Responsible Boating brings attention to essential elements to reduce and mitigate risk. Everyone makes the assumption they're going to go out and have a have a great time, which most likely is going to be the case. But are you prepared if something doesn't quite go as planned?"

Greg Masonick, the Flotilla Commander of Fort Myers Beach Flotilla 91D7, stressed the importance of understanding and awareness of boating hazards. Masonick said, "In-person classes offer camaraderie together with local knowledge that you won’t get from an online class. Some operators prefer in-person boating safety courses for this reason. It is an excellent opportunity for students to interact, share perspectives, and gain local knowledge. Participants learn about the importance of life jackets, risk reduction, preparedness, and exercising sound judgment."

The one-day class costs $45 per person and includes study materials. Enroll today at www.Aux91FMB.org/SafeBoating or by calling 239-690-6780 option 1.

According to Florida law, anyone born on or after January 1, 1988, who plans to operate a boat in Florida waters with an engine of 10 horsepower or more must complete an approved boating safety course and obtain a Florida boating safety ID card. This card certifies that the person has completed the required boating safety course, but it is not a boating license.

The US Coast Guard Auxiliary is the lead agency in recreational boating safety, protecting America's seaward frontier. Created by Congress in 1939, the Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed civilian component of the U.S. Coast Guard, supporting the Coast Guard in nearly all mission areas. Every day, vessels and aircraft deploy across the U.S. to aid or save countless boaters and dollars in property damage.

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