Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight is reminding residents and visitors to consider safe boating practices, following a weekend boating competition that led to a marine rescue.
Deputies were first alerted to a vessel and two boaters in distress Saturday afternoon around 4:45 p.m., when the U.S. Coast Guard received word of an activated PLB or "personal locator beacon" in the gulf. Air-1 immediately responded and located the capsized vessel and two sailors approximately two miles offshore near Turtle Beach. Marine deputies threw safety lines and pulled both men on board who were provided thermal blankets and later medically cleared by paramedics.
Sheriff Knight is using this opportunity to remind boaters that despite the seemingly warm weather, even brief exposure to gulf temperatures are low enough to produce hypothermia. Residents and visitors are encouraged to always bring safety equipment on board including life jackets and GPS-enabled beacons that can help first responders locate you if you are in distress. Finally, always complete a float plan before you leave so family or friends know where you will be and when you are expected to return.
“We are undoubtedly relieved these boaters survived gulf temperatures and made it to safety thanks to Air-1 and our Marine Unit,” said Sheriff Knight. “While safety is our top priority, so is education and it is critical when organizations create these competitions that they do their homework beforehand. Participants should be equipped with the tools they need to safely compete, weather conditions should be reviewed, and most importantly, organizations must communicate their plans to public safety agencies in advance.”
Here are a few best practices for residents and visitors to consider while enjoying Sarasota County waterways and while competing in boating events and competitions:
• CHECK SAFETY/RESCUE EQUIPMENT: This includes batteries, fire extinguishers, on-board electronics (VHF radios) and navigation lights. Also consider purchasing personal locator beacons or satellite messengers so you can communicate if you are in distress.
• BRING LIFE JACKETS: Make sure you have personal flotation devices (PFDs) for all aboard and make sure children wear a USCG-approved, properly-fitting life jacket at all times.
• WATCH THE SIGNS: Know how to read the red and green channel markers and watch for slow and no wake signs. These apply to all vessels.
• PERMITS AND LICENSING: Make sure you have up-to-date fishing permits and registrations for your vessel. Know size requirements and what fish are in season.
• ALCOHOL AND BOATING DON’T MIX: Consuming alcoholic beverages in excess will affect perception, reaction time and decision-making. Don’t drink and boat!
• FILE A FLOAT PLAN: If you will be on the water for an extended period of time, let family or friends know about your plans and stay in touch with someone on shore. You can download a float plan from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office website. Under Crime Prevention select “Safety Information” and then “Boating Safety”.
Visit our YouTube channel to learn more: youtube.com/watch?v=CHZ23nHl-OU.