Not wearing a life jacket? Officers urge safety as boat registrations hit record number in Florida

With Memorial Day right around the corner, the city of Venice is preparing for a busy summer on the water. With a record one million-plus registered boats in Florida, officials say safety has to be everyone’s top priority.

Venice city employees wore life jackets to work to kick off National Safe Boating Week.

"A typical day is a busy day for us on the water," said Master Officer Paul Joyce with Venice PD. "We live in paradise here in Florida, especially here in Venice. This is the place to be, come out and boat and fish."

Officer Joyce and others hope the visual of out-of-place life jackets will stick in boaters' minds. The boating community is preparing for some of the busiest days ahead; summer on the water.

"The last thing we want to do is have to roll up and have a family on a boat that’s been destroyed," said Officer Joyce.

He says to make sure your boats are stocked. The necessities include:

  • life jackets,
  • throwable flotation devices,
  • fire extinguishers,
  • flares,
  • horns,
  • working lights,
  • and a kill switch lanyard.

On Saturday, May 21, from 8 a.m to 1 p.m., Venice PD is holding a life jacket drive and vessel safety check at Venice Marine Park and Boat Ramp. They encourage everyone to come get a free assessment – and hope to collect jackets for others who need them.

Joyce said marine patrol units from across Sarasota County will also be conducting vessel stops to spot-check for proper safety equipment. 

Craig Marcum, the owner of Sea Tow Venice, said they see the result of mistakes on the water.

"We've seen a huge influx of new boaters out on the water. With the new boaters comes the less experienced boaters," said Marcum.

During the pandemic, boat purchases soared. Sea Tow Venice is working to educate boaters before Sea Tow's services are needed.

"With that inexperience comes a lot of things that people don’t realize with boating. In certain situations you can get yourself in trouble, not being prepared," said Marcum.

That's what Venice police, Sea Tow, FWC, the Sarasota County Sheriffs' Office and the Coast Guard Auxiliary want to prevent from happening.

"The number one rule in boating is: you want to be safe," said Marcum.