A busy but dangerous time for boaters in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – The Fourth of July is considered one of the busiest and most dangerous times for boating. An increase in the number of boaters on the water means an increased risk of accidents.

Captain Chad Starling is no stranger to the water. “We do offshore trips, from four to 12 hours. We have four boats, ranging from 27 feet to 37 feet, and we take groups of up to six people,” he said.

Captain Starling handles approximately 350 to 500 charters each year, but there is one day when he is away from his boat.

“The Fourth of July is a very dangerous time to be on the water. If anybody has a boat, they’re out there. And for me, it’s better to spend some time with the family than to be out here on the boat,” he said.

According to the American Boating AssociationJuly 4, Memorial Day and Labor Day typically account for more than a third of all boating accidents and fatalities.

“There’s a lot of boats on the water, and there’s a lot of people who don’t have a lot of experience with their boats,” said Captain Starling. “And then at some point, there’s alcohol involved. Bad things happen when you mix alcohol on boats.”

Water safety for July 4th (Copyright 2024 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.)

Captain Geoff Selhorst is with Sea Tow Jacksonville. “There are so many boaters who haven’t had their boat in a while. So they’re not sure about the maintenance of the boat. The fuel could be bad, their batteries could be bad, there’s a lot of people on the boat,” he said.

Captain Selhorst says that it is therefore important to check that you have a number of essential items on board before you go out on the water.

“A PFD (personal floatation device) is super important. For every person on board there should be at least one PFD. A whistle, a personal locator beacon, fire extinguisher, hand flares, first aid kit, sound signal device or horn and VHF radio,” says Captain Selhorst.

He says the waterways in downtown Jacksonville are a madhouse on the Fourth of July and if you’re going to see the fireworks downtown by boat, go early and practice the three C’s: caution, courtesy and common sense.

When we asked Capt. Selhorst what kind of situations he encounters on vacation, he said, “We come across a log of engines that won’t start.”

He also added: “Having a kill switch on your body is super important. If I fall backwards, it stops those engines, and ideally that’s what you want to do.”

“Sometimes people run out of fuel, the rule of thirds is really important. So you have a full tank of gas when you leave, use a third of it to go where you need to go, and use a third of it to come back and keep a third of it in reserve,” said Captain Selhorst.

Also take extra food and water on board, because you never know when you might need it.

Copyright 2024 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.

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