James Mullinax knows a thing or two about boating. The commanding officer at the U.S. Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet, Mullinax has spent 31 years watching the country's oceans and waterways, including stints along the coasts of Virginia, Hawaii and South Carolina. In preparation for National Safe Boating Week, Mullinax checked in with The Palm Beach Post's Willie Howard to offer some tips on how to stay safe at sea.
For starters, there are a few safety precautions that every South Florida boater should take: don't let passengers ride on the bows (where they can slip off and be sucked into the propellers), provide life vests that fit and always keep a brightly colored, inflatable safety tube on board.
"For adults, Mullinax recommends buying a comfortable life jacket, such as one of the popular suspender-style inflatable jackets and wearing it whenever the boat is moving," the Post reports. Mullinax also noted that a diver he recently rescued two miles offshore and three miles from his dive boat was able to stay afloat and draw attention to himself with the help of an inflatable safety tube.
According to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, more than 18 percent boating fatalities in 2009 were caused by alcohol or drug use. Mullinax warns that boaters looking to party out on the water should designate a sober driver. "It's not just a designated driver, but somebody who knows how to drive the boat."
Finally, before you make waves, let someone know where you're going. "Filing a 'float plan' every time you head out on the water is a good idea... Even a short written note or an e-mail to a friend or relative telling where you plan to go boating, where you plan to launch your boat and when you are due back is helpful."