Simple tips for boating safely in cooler weather

When the weather cools off in Florida, it’s kind of a glorious time of year.  It’s a time where you can take a break from the heat and enjoy wearing the occasional jacket or long-sleeved shirt. 

This is actually our favorite time of year to go boating… but it’s going to be a little different experience from rest of the year.  When you’re preparing to go boating this winter, make sure you use these tips to stay safe in the slightly cooler weather.

Dress for the cooler temps

The first place to start is to prepare for a day on the water with the right clothing.  You might usually wear your swimsuits, shorts, t-shirts, and sunglasses and call it a day, but you can’t do that in the winter.

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You need to wear enough clothing to cover up your whole body, especially since the temperature in a running boat will be colder than it would be inland.  You may even need to cover your head, neck, ears, and hands if the clouds arrive.  Choose water-wicking base layers and waterproof outer layers.

If an accident were to happen and you were in the water this winter, having enough clothing on will keep your body temperature safe until help can arrive.  This is why you should dress for the water, not for the weather.

It’s also important to have extra clothing on board inside a waterproof bag in the event that you get wet or it’s colder than expected, and you should also have your fully-charged phones in a sealed plastic bag in case of emergency.  Don’t forget to pack things to keep your insides warm too, like warm beverages and snacks like energy bars.

Water safety

Just like you would need any other time of year, you need to make sure you’re wearing a life jacket this winter.  Falling into the water at this time of year is much more dangerous and your body can go into shock from the cold.  Of course, you don’t want to risk drowning any time of year, so be sure to always have a properly-fitting life jacket ready to go for each passenger.

Don’t forget sun protection

Just because it’s winter in Jacksonville doesn’t mean you can’t get too much sun.  Be sure to bring sun protection like hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and clothing that covers your skin.  After a few hours in the sun, be sure to apply sunscreen before a burn comes on.

Why winter can be dangerous for boating in Jacksonville

While boating all year is one of the best perks of Florida living, you do have some risks that you wouldn’t see the rest of the year.  Falling into the water in the summer would feel good, but in the winter it’s dangerous with the cold temperatures.  You could experience cold shock which causes hyperventilation, panic, and an increased heart rate due to the automatic gasp reflex your body experiences in the sudden cold water.

Of course, being in the water for too long, such as 30 minutes or longer, can lead to the serious danger of hypothermia.  Being in the cold water for an extended period of time could make you lose muscle coordination which causes swimming failure.

Be sure to have a protocol to signal for help in an emergency and avoid trying to swim back to the boat so that you don’t drown trying to tread water.  Having a contact that knows where you’re going to be and for how long will help to make sure someone is notified if there appears to be an emergency situation.

While boating in the winter can be a wonderful experience, unlike the hot boating experience you’ll have most of the year, it’s important to be prepared for this different experience.  Prepare your passengers by having the right supplies on board, knowledge of how to handle the water should you go overboard, and the right mindset going into a day on the water during the coolest time of year.

History of the Intracoastal Waterway - Part 2

In Part 1 of the History of the ICW, we looked at how the Intracoastal Waterway was an undeveloped area that was much needed for trade and that getting improvements made was not as easy as it sounded until the right people stepped in. In part 2, you’ll be able to get a better look at how things changed once the 19th century continued on and what took place into the 20th century. Then, take a look at how that has affected what the area is used for today.

Developing the ICW in the 19th century

When the General Survey Act took place in 1824 that stated that the president has the authorization to have surveys made for any points of interest to the country where routes could be used for transportation, Gallatin’s Intracoastal plans were to be worked on once and for all. The proposed sections of his plan were finally built, such as the Cape Cod Canal and the Delaware and Raritan Canal.

Later in 1826, Congress decided to allow for the first survey for a canal on the inland side, between the Gulf and the ocean which also led to the growth of steam power for transportation on both land and sea. The coastal improvements continued going forward, such as the Houston Ship Channel, but things suffered when the Civil War concluded. There also became a larger priority in railroad transportation over water transport, but water transport still had something going for it that railroad travel did not: a larger hauling capacity.

Finally around the 1880’s is when Congress decided it wanted to improve the waterways to allow for transportation competition and the 1882 act was signed to help in the development of waterways with freedom from tolls. Unfortunately, President Chester Arthur vetoed this but it was passed anyway and the freedom from tolls and taxes on waterways was promoted by Congress.

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How things evolved in the 20th century and today

Once the 20th century rolled around, the diesel engine had just been invented and was being used in transportation fuels from coal and steam. Fuel consumption was up and studies began to find the most efficient methods for moving cargo.

Now that the channels were deepened, steering improved and simultaneously the Panama Canal Act was passed to revive waterway transportation in this country, opening the Panama Canal for coastal shipping to reach the west coast finally. When World War I took place, it was noticeable the need for bulk cargo transport and Congress decided to establish the Federal Barge Lines to create cheaper ways to transport farming supplies.

Things continued to evolve in the 1920s with the beginning of water carrier operations, the construction of both the Louisiana and Texas Intracoastal Waterways, surveying the area east of New Orleans, and the passing of the River and Harbor Act of January 21, 1927. There was a big wakeup call once World War II arrived, when German submarines sank our merchant ships on the East Coast, highlighting the importance of efficient transportation within the continental US.

Today, the waterway has many spots of shallow waters despite the law requiring minimum depths of 12 feet throughout, but funding has been an issue. Fuel taxes are charged since there are no tolls and this helps to maintain facilities. The ICW spans the Eastern Seaboard, beginning around New Jersey’s Manasquan River, connecting at the Manasquan Inlet and extending to Brownsville, Texas at the Gulf of Mexico. It’s used to today for a heavy amount of commercial activity, but of course, also for recreational purposes.

You’ll often see snowbirds moving south for the winter or north for the summer along the ICW, or for days when the ocean is too rough for travel. It’s easy to travel since there are several rivers allowing access to ports like the Mississippi, Savannah, and the Hudson.

If you’ve ever wondered the backstory of the Intracoastal Waterway’s network of canals, rivers, bays, and inlets along the Eastern Seaboard, this is a look at where it began and how it progressed as a form of water transportation.

Today, it makes for the perfect boating vacation, such as to Fort Lauderdale’s Millionaire’s Row or to head out from Jacksonville on a seven-day cruise, but it was once used simply to allow for a safer way to do business away from the ocean. Enjoy vacationing on the ICW knowing that it has had a long history of evolving into what it is today.

History of the Intracoastal Waterway - Part 1

Have you ever wondered the history behind the popular Intracoastal Waterway that you are always boating on? It has a unique history, unsurprisingly with its long stretch in size along the country, and is used today as a great route alongside the states without the hazards of open ocean travel.

It’s a popular choice for Floridians to get out on the water, but it actually stretches along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico from Boston all of the way to our very own south Florida and continuing to Brownsville, TX. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about what this space has been used for in the past and how it came to be, check out parts 1 and 2 of the history of the ICW for the story.

The early history behind the ICW

The 3,000-mile inland waterway of today was originally the solution to shipping hazards that were created by travel on the Atlantic coast. When the US had first become independent, it was a time when the commercial and military use of the Atlantic coast had become very important.

The Intracoastal needed to be developed from the erosion and sedimentary deposition caused by the Atlantic currents, and it was the best option for transportation without governmental control like there was so much of on the coastline. Inland transport wasn’t taking place yet, and the river systems became the solution to a free transportation policy.

Today, you may have heard of the Great Loop, the improved ICW that allows for a circumnavigation of the water in the eastern continental US without much ocean travel involved.

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The struggle to get development

With natural transportation route improvement becoming a hot topic around the country at this time, issues began to come up about how the improvements could be made. There was much division among the people about who should be paying for such improvements and even, who should be doing the work. Finally, in the early 1800’s, the first plan was presented by the government, which included ideas for where transportation could take place and where it already was.

When a plan was presented by Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin to the Senate regarding future transportation development including east to west improvements and north to south improvements, it did not get approved at the time. He had included all of the details from construction crews to costs, as well as benefits for the country and international markets, the $20 million plan, was turned down.

Ironically, it was implemented anyways just after the War of 1812 when it was realized that something like this was so badly needed. Gallatin’s ideas were translated by taking the known advantage points and making navigational improvements through state-built improvements under the General Survey Act.

Now that at this time people were finally taking Gallatin’s Intracoastal plan seriously, things were improving thanks to the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Check out part 2 in an upcoming post to find out how things developed from there, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Does My Dog Need a Life Vest or Jacket to Go Boating?

Thinking about taking the dogs boating this weekend? Dogs make great company when you are out enjoying the water since they love the outdoors. You have everyone’s life jacket ready to go from the kids to any extra guests so for safety’s sake your dog will need one too.  Not only will your dog look great he/she will be able to enjoy boating safely. When you are making a reservation with the Jax Boat Club make sure you are reserving one of the pet friendly boats we have in the fleet.

Up until now, dog jackets have been not rated by the U.S. Coast Guard, so it is up to the owner to do a bit of research and find the right product for their dog. Pet flotation devices basically act as flotation aids and lifting devices-as most devices have a handle found on the top of the flotation device.  If your dog falls overboard you will have a better chance of lifting him/her out of the water by using the handle.

Can’t All Dogs Swim?

You may feel like your dog is a fine swimmer but with boating you have other factors to think about. Deep water, strong currents, and large waves are among some of the challenges you may face while out boating with your dog. Even breeds that are natural swimmers could struggle when placed in a condition mentioned above.  Keep reading for some great recommendations on choosing the right life jacket.

Choosing the Right Jacket

The best advice on choosing a jacket is to try it on! Dogs come in so many shapes and sizes so it is highly recommended to try on a jacket with the features you are looking for.  The following website http://dogsrecommend.com/life-jacket/  has a lot of useful information concerning sizing, functions, pricing, and safety. You will also find the best features to look for when buying a dog jacket -what type of material, ease of use, handles, a good fit, and if the jacket has buckles and straps.

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Before You Get on the Boat

Develop a plan in case your dog goes overboard.  Talk to your passengers ahead of time on who does what if the dog goes overboard.  Remember the waterways can be busy with boating traffic and it is imperative that the boat operator is focused on other boats as well as passenger safety. 

Most importantly, whether you’re boating with 4 leggers, 2 leggers, or both…be safe and have fun!

How to Determine the Type of Boat You’ll Need

When it comes to hitting the water at the Jax Boat Club, there are many great boating options to keep things enjoyable for you and your whole group. Whether you are fishing, waterskiing, or just cruising the ICW there is a specific boat for all interests.

Every activity on the water offers the chance to try a distinctive style of boat, which is why joining JBC is so remarkable, as a boat club has most of the options you would need. You don’t want to find yourself on a cruising boat trying to catch fish, or a fishing boat wishing you could go tubing. Take a look at what type of boat options there are and how to determine what you’ll need when you hit the water.

Fishing boats

If you are trying to work on your fishing game, it is important to find the proper fishing boat and not to fish from another style of boat. With the Jax Boat Club, you will be able to reserve excellent fishing boat options in a variety of styles.

Almost all JBC fishing boats are pet-friendly and they come in sizes as small as the Key West for the skinny water with a maximum capacity of 3 people and as large as the Wellcraft for offshore fishing designed for 8 people. Other options include the 21’ Sea Chaser by Carolina Skiff, or the Pro Sport 17 and Tidewater 20’. All the fishing boats are equipped with GPS, Sonar, and live bait wells.

Waterskiing & Cruising boats

When it comes to getting active on the water, you will need an entirely different vessel to allow your crew to feel the power of the waves. A water skier, wakeboarder and tuber will need the right sports boats to pull them to get to the correct speed and make some waves.  

Great options for water sports are the Monterey Bow Riders, the Chaparral Bow Rider 22 and Nauticstar Sport Deck 21.  You will find that cruising the water is a dream in the Rinker Express Yacht 35 that can seat up to 10 people as there is nothing more spectacular than cruising down the ICW with your friends. You will love getting to put up some shade in the Regal Sundeck Bow Rider 24 when the sun is shining and you want to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. The newest member to the fleet, the Stingray Deck Boat 22, is another choice when cruising with a group of friends as it seats up to 11 people.  When it comes to your boating needs this weekend, make sure you have selected a boat that suits the activity you plan to do. Don’t make it a fishing trip combined with a watersport trip; you’ll want to narrow it down to make sure you get the boat you need most. See you on the docks!

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