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Before you hit the water this Columbus Day weekend, remember these safety tips

Columbus Day weekend is upon us and boaters across South Florida are ready to hit the seas, so the people who police the waters have offered some tips to keep boaters safe as they are out having fun.

The U.S. Coast Guard, along with local and state law enforcement agencies, will be patrolling, conducting safety checks and ensuring boaters are staying safe this weekend, the agency said.

The forecast for the weekend is for moderate winds, scattered showers and low seas. Most of South Florida’s coast may see a small-craft advisory from the National Weather Service. The advisory says small crafts should exercise caution for increasing winds.

The Coast Guard released a boating safety checklist for mariners to keep in mind while out on the water.

Never boat under the influence. It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There are stringent penalties for violating these laws, which can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail.

File a float plan. Leave a detailed float plan with a friend or family member who is staying back. The sooner a vessel can be reported overdue, the more likely a positive outcome will result. Your float plan should include detailed information that rescue workers need in order to find you.

Wear a life jacket.

Take a VHF-FM marine radio. Cellphones may lose signal offshore and run out of batteries after a day on the water. VHF-channel 16 is the marine emergency channel and should be used only in emergencies.

Monitor weather broadcasts. Watch for current storm and small craft advisories. Forecasts can be heard by tuning in to channels 1 through 5 on a VHF marine radio.

Have a signaling device to communicate an emergency. Boaters should have signal flares, whistle, horn, or signal mirror, in addition to an emergency position-indicating radio beacon to alert first responders to the emergency.

When boating at night, be especially cautious. Boats should be properly lit and operated at reduced speeds at night due to limited visibility, back-lighting from the shore that can be confused with aids to navigation, and unlit obstructions. Boaters should always maintain a proper lookout, know their equipment, proceed at safe speeds and stay within the marked navigational channel.

If you see something, say something. If you see someone in danger or someone you suspect may be boating under the influence, contact the Coast Guard via VHF channel 16 or to local first responders via 911.

Download the Coast Guard boating safety mobile app. The app has the latest safety regulations and navigation rules, as well as immediate access to filing a float plan, checking the weather and reporting pollution hazards or suspicious activity.

The National Weather Service says to expect these conditions this weekend:

The coastal waters from Deerfield Beach to Ocean Reef will see winds of 10 to 20 knots, seas 3 to 6 feet with occasional seas to 8 feet, swells around 3 feet, choppy intracoastal waters in exposed areas and a chance of showers.

The coastal waters from Ocean Reef to Craig Key will have winds of 15 to 20 knots, seas 4 to 7 feet and scattered showers.

The coastal waters from Craig Key to the west end of Seven Mile Bridge will see winds of 15 to 20 knots, seas 4 to 7 feet and scattered showers.

The coastal waters from the west end of Seven Mile Bridge to Key West will have winds at 15 to 20 knots, seas 4 to 7 feet and scattered showers.

Miami Herald Real Time Reporter Devoun Cetoute covers breaking news, Florida theme parks and general assignment. He attends the University of Florida and grew up in Miami. Theme parks are on his mind in and out of the office.
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