How the Coast Guard keeps boaters safe along the Florida Keys

Janine Stanwood rides along on the Coast Guard's newest 45-foot vessel

ISLAMORDA, Fla. – Rescuers on the water see it all in the Florida Keys: sinking rental boats, crashes, engine fires and stranded mariners at sea.

Local 10 spent the day with the members of the U.S. Coast Guard Station Islamorada onboard their newest 45-foot vessel to see how they keep boaters in line.

"So a lot people come down here for vacation. I mean, it's one of the best spots in the Keys," said BM2 Christopher Vita. "What's the best thing to do in the Keys? Obviously, you know: Rent a boat." 

There is no special license to be a boater in the state of Florida and no one under the age of 14 may operate a personal watercraft.

Vita and his crew stopped a group of people on personal watercrafts blowing through a no-wake zone.

They also learned one of the operators was too young, so asked she switch places with an adult. 



Vita said many boaters don't always have what they need to stay safe, which is why the Coast Guard makes random checks on the water. The Coast Guard does not need probable cause to board someone's boat.

"Life jackets, fire extinguishers. Not a lot of people know how many fire extinguishers they need for their size vessel," Vita said.

As boating season heats up, Coast Guard stations all around South Florida will be out in full force to make sure boaters are safe. The official website for the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division is http://uscgboating.org/

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