Boating Tips for the Spring in Florida

It’s finally that time of year when the warm temps are starting to come back and the cold winter season is gone for a quite a while.  The holiday décor is put away, the winter clothes are packed up for the rest of the year, and now it’s time to start thinking spring.

This glorious time of year is the gateway to prime boating season and likely your favorite part of being a Floridian.  Get ready for summer boating now by taking advantage of “Spring cleaning” or really Spring maintenance on your boat, and be aware of some of these tips when it comes to boating in the Spring in Jacksonville.

Spring boat maintenance

Just like Spring cleaning your home, now is the time to work on some tasks when it comes to boat maintenance.  For starters you should be focused on upkeep of the boat to ensure things are safe and secure.  You can do this by getting a tune up with your mechanic before the busy summer season comes in.  Get a tune-up done now so that you can ensure you have full fluids, a smooth running motor, and an oil change.

If you’re a member of Jax Boat Club you don’t have to worry about this - we take care of all of it!!!  If you’re not a member, you should seriously consider selling us your boat and let us remove all of the aggravation from your boating.

spring cleaning your boat

Next you’ll want to make sure your trailer is setup for success from tires with enough air, breaks and lights all working properly, and checking for signs of corrosion on the body.  You can talk to a trailer service for help with all these tasks.

Don’t forget to stock up on the necessary safety gear to have a good boating year.  This means that you have plenty of life jackets for all of the people allowed on the boat at once and emergency supplies.  Check your flares and extinguishers for expiration dates because it may be time to replace these items.

Lastly, make this the time you focus on cleaning everything inside the boat and out.  You may not have thought about the bottom of your boat, but this it he time to scrape away all of that stuff stuck to the bottom.  You’ll have a smoother ride if you get the bottom pressure cleaned, scraped, and even painted before keeping it in the water for a long period of time this year.  You’ll likely find algae, barnacles, and sea creatures stuck to the bottom and affecting your smooth ride.

Staying warm after winter effects

This time of year is nearly perfect for boating since it’s finally warm again without being too extreme.  On the flip side, you’ll be dealing with post-winter effects when it comes to cooler water and sometimes cooler, gloomy days.

After some windy, chilly winter days with choppy cold waters, you’re probably eager to enjoy the sunnier days ahead, but it’s important to be prepared for what this season is like.  You’ll want to make sure you’ve packed enough layers to keep warm if the weather cools in the evening.  Maybe even have some warm liquids available on board.  Be sure to be very aware of the weather, dress properly for the forecast.

Types of fish to expect in the Spring

You will also want to continue those regular fishing trips.  Take a look at our Fishing Report for some great specific info on boating in April & May.   Link to JBC Fishing Report.

If you’re starting your spring boating season, make sure you’re aware of the possibility of winter weather sneaking in once in a while, cold water temps from the winter, boat maintenance needs, and how to stay safe and have fun this time of year.  Take care of your boat now, so that your summer can be easy and fun on the great waters of Jacksonville.

How to Get Your Florida Boating License

Before you hit the water, you should get your Florida boating license. The process of getting your boating license depends on your age. If you want to enjoy boating this year, make sure you take the time to read the process for how to get your Florida boating license below.

Step #1 - Understand What You Need

While many refer to it as a boating license, what you really need is a Boater Education Card. This card is mandatory for anybody wanting to operate a boat and born after January 1st, 1988. If you were born before 1988, it’s still recommended but you will not be required to get the Boater Education Card.

In addition, if you're under 14 years of age, you will not be able to operate a boat or any other personal vessel, even if you get the Boater Education Card. It's also important to know that the regulatory authority for the Boater Card is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Step #2 - Taking the Boater Education Course

To get your Boater Education Card, you will need to complete an approved boater education course in Florida. The course must be approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Your other option is to pass an approved equivalency test.

The boater education course will teach you about boat operations and maintenance, along with the legal requirements for boating in Florida. In addition, you will learn how to handle boating emergencies. This course was created to ensure boaters can enjoy the water, while remaining safe.

You can choose from the following ways to complete the boater education course in Florida:

  • Choose from 12 FWC approved online courses
  • Choose one of the approved classroom options offered by the United States Power Squadron or U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or several online options.
  • Take the home study course provided by the U.S. Power Squadrons or from the FWC

If you choose to take the classroom option, you will need to attend one eight hour session or 12 evening sessions offered. The class offered from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary charges $50.

Here is the link to the free BoatUS online course:  http://www.boatus.org/florida/

Those choosing the home study course will be given free course materials from most providers. Some do charge a small fee and the course may take up to eight hours to complete.

All boater education courses require you to take an exam and get at least 80% of the answers to pass the course. When you do pass, you will get a temporary card while you wait for your Boater Education Card.

Step #3 - Sending in your Information

After you've completed the course, you will need to send in the certificate of completion, along with your name, address, phone number and date of birth. It must be sent to the Division of Law Enforcement, Boating Safety Section, 620 South Meridian Street, Tallahassee, Florida, 32399.

You won't need to renew your Boater Education Card. However, if you ever need a replacement card, you will need to send the same information from Step #3 to the same address.

 Powerboat steering wheel

Essential Water Skiing Safety Tips

Water ski season is a wonderful time of year. There's nothing like hitting the water and enjoying the perfect weather as you try out new tricks on the water. However, the possibility of injury comes back into play and could ruin your entire water skiing season. Here are a few of the best essential water skiing safety tips to use this season.

Refresh Your Hand Signals

If you're new to water skiing, make sure you learn the hand signals used between the skier and the boat operator. Even if you've been skiing for years, take the time to refresh yourself on the signals. In addition, make sure you use them on the water.   See Signal Diagram below.

Inspect all Your Gear

Maybe you haven't been on the water for many months and your gear has been stored during that time. Before you hit the water this season, make sure you check your gear. Check the ropes, the skis, the handles, all your grommets and everything else. Ensure everything is ready for the new water skiing season and replace any worn out or broken items.

Ski Smart and Know Your Limits

You haven't hit the water in months. While water skiing can be a bit like riding your bike, don't think you can go right to maximum speed on your first pass. Make sure you start slowly and ski smart. Know your limits, as well, and keep yourself within your limits to avoid injury.

Take Lessons to Work on Technique

If you're new to water skiing or just a little rusty, consider taking a lesson or two. With the right teacher, you can work on the proper technique and find better balance on the water. Water skiing with the proper technique will ensure you get the most out of your time on the water without having to worry so much about injury.

Keep Learning and Keep Teaching

As a water skier, you can always learn something new. Even if you're very advanced, you can continue to learn new tricks, better technique and better safety. In addition, those in a position to teach children or beginners should always continue to teach.

Make sure you teach as the student's pace. If they are catching on fast, don't be afraid to challenge the student. However, don't push too far and always stress safety above everything else.

More tips for safety on the water during this water skiing season:

  • Use a spotter to keep an eye on the skier
  • Always use a personal flotation device
  • Don't ski while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Avoid docks, swimmers, other boats, buoys and other possible hazards
  • Keep ropes at the same length if skiing with a partner
  • Always stick to safe speeds
  • Stay aware of everything around you and be alert at all times
  • Mark your presence after falling by raising one sky halfway out of the water
  • End your skiing session when you're tired. Skiing when tired can lead to injury.

Before you hit the water this year, make sure you have all the essential water skiing safety tips necessary. You never want to ski without safety as the first priority.

water skiing hand signals.jpg

Traveling to the NFL Jaguars Game by Boat

Is there a cooler way to make a Jaguars game than to arrive by boat? The Jacksonville Jaguars can be on your radar as a boater by following these tips. You’ll actually find that since it’s located just north of the St. Johns River, it’s really a great place to dock for the games. Take a look below to get a better idea of how you can check out a Jaguars game without parking the boat elsewhere and getting a ride in.

It’s actually one of the best modes of transport to a game

Don’t think you’re going to miss the Jaguars’ upcoming season because you are a boater. Boaters have the option to catch a game and they often find that boating in is one of the best routes to get to the game. Travel the St. Johns River until you reach Metropolitan Park Marina and you’ll be right by the action. Everbank Field will be right at your fingertips.

Make reservations now

Make sure to reserve early.  The marina opens up reservations access each year when the new Jaguars Schedule is announced.  You will need to be online within a day or two making the reservations you want.  Watch for the schedule to come out [usually around the middle of April] and immediately go to jaxparks.coj.net.

Planning ahead for the game

If you’ve got a game in mind, you’ll want to set up your reservation for the marina early to avoid missing out. You can make reservations with the Metropolitan Park Marina online through jaxparks.coj.net or by calling to reserve your slip. EverBank Field will be just north of the St. Johns River and the marina allows for up to 80 boats to dock and walk right over to the field.

Now you might be wondering how long you can stay at the marina in case you want to tailgate and relax the next day. You can stay up to 72 hours in any 30-day period with the marina being open daily from 7am to dusk.

 Author: MC2 (AW/SW) Leah Stiles; Source:  Wikimedia Commons

Author: MC2 (AW/SW) Leah Stiles; Source: Wikimedia Commons

What to expect at the marina

Once you’ve made your reservation for Metropolitan Park Marina, make sure you know where to go to get there. It’s located right by the field on the North Bank of the St. Johns River, just west of the channel markers R’82’ and G’81’. You’ll have easy access to downtown Jax and the Landing since it’s 1.5 miles to the west, and you can use the water taxi too to go anywhere you like downtown.

There are around 80 slip options in the marina including a few for large yachts. While the slips are available to the public, they are first-come, first-serve so early reservations will be required during games and special events.

The marina offers 20, 30, and 50 amp service that is offered for around $9 a day and no cost to you to get potable water. Don’t plan on waste disposal services but there is a boat pump out station for no cost.

Game day

Now that you’ve made it to your marina slip, you’ll have to get over to the field. Half of the fun may be tailgating at the marina before the big game, and then having the option to walk on over to the field. You’ll be able to avoid parking fees can add another expense after paying for tickets. Be sure to avoid having any open flames on the boats or the docks, but keeping your Bar-B-Q cooking to the park or bulkhead region of the docks.

The best thing you can do to plan on boating to game day is to call and make your reservations now. Don’t miss your chance to boat to an upcoming game watching your favorite Jacksonville team at EverBank Field and don’t think that you’ll have to miss this downtown fun because you travel by boat.

The Importance of Sunblock while Boating in Florida

If you are going to live in Florida and especially if you are going to live the boat life, sun safety should be a top priority.  You’ve probably loaded up on sunscreen supplies for the boat, but remembering to actually apply it regularly is where you can end up in some serious trouble.  A sunburn is no joke on your health and it’s easy to get after a long day on the water.

While you’re busy thinking about life jackets and emergency supplies, be sure to take the time to focus on sun safety for everyone on board.  Here is a look at some of the facts that you need to know about sunblock, skin cancer, and your health.

Why sunscreen is vital

Sunscreen is so vital for our skin because the sun contains such harmful rays.  While these rays are good for providing Vitamin D, our ozone layer is depleting and the sun has become more dangerous because of it.  You’ve likely noticed the increase in skin cancer and premature aging skin from those that spend too much time in the sun.  Sunscreen can help prevent these things, as well as facial blotchiness, skin discoloration, and brown spots.

You’ll get your Vitamin D in about 30 minutes of regular outdoor activity or through your diet, which means you don’t need to go without sunscreen to get it. 

Sun damage in excess

Sun damage is so common for boaters because they are getting more sun than anyone else in Florida.  Not only is there the direct Florida sun, but you’re getting the reflection from the water as well.  It can become excessive for your skin and eyes after a few hours on the water which is why sunscreen is so important.

Excessive UV rays can cause skin cancer, wrinkled skin, discoloration, and more.  If you are on medication, you are more likely to get a sunburn or sun damage, especially for anti-inflammatory or acne medicines.

What types of sunscreen to choose and avoid

Part of using a good sunscreen is understanding the proper application.  You should choose a sunscreen between 30-50 SPF since the higher ones don’t protect your skin as well.  An SPF30 will give you 97% of the protection of the higher SPFs.

For the application, you should use one ounce for every two hours and don’t forget to reapply every few hours.  Even on a cloudy day, you should be applying your sunscreen.  Cover every part of your body, even your scalp, and your feet.  Watch out for spray-on sunscreens that miss spots on your body and don’t inhale them since they could be harmful to ingest.  These spray sunscreens go everywhere too and can permanently damage the vinyl in the cushions.

You should also avoid expired sunscreen and deceptive sunscreens like the waterproof or sports sunscreens that claim they won’t “sweat off”.  You are safe however to choose a natural alternative, such as a tinted mineralized zinc and titanium oxide formula.  Don’t forget that clothing, hats, and shade are also great forms of sun protection to go along with your sunscreen.

While you may love the feel of the sun on your skin while on the boat, it’s important to remember that sun in excess is dangerous.  Remember these tips next time you go boating and most importantly, don’t forget to reapply sunscreen every few hours!