The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) advises boat owners to secure their boats properly in advance of possible sustained heavy winds from Hurricane Irene.
Vessels that break free can cause problems to waterways by causing fuel and oil pollution, drifting into bridges, docks, seawalls and piers, and interfering with navigation. In addition, the boats themselves can sustain damage.
"Now is the time to properly secure your vessel to make sure it doesn't break free and cause damage to property or result in people getting injured," said Capt. Tom Shipp with the FWC's Boating and Waterways Section.
If boat owners trailer their boats, the FWC recommends they secure their vessels in a safe location, let some air out of the trailer tires, block the wheels and, if possible, anchor the boat down and/or add weight to help keep the boat in place.
Florida has laws that relate to abandoned vessels. The state is often overwhelmed with lost, abandoned and damaged vessels following significant weather events.
Residents are encouraged to call their local law enforcement agencies or the FWC at 888-404-3922 to report vessels that have broken free.
The FWC's Division of Law Enforcement and other law enforcement agencies are often tasked with helping people who intentionally put themselves at risk, such as personal watercraft operators who view the high waves created by a storm as an opportunity to jump waves.
"Thrill-seekers are advised to avoid the waters and high winds created from the storm," Shipp said. "Please keep in mind that when people choose to act irresponsibly, they jeopardize others. They cause law enforcement officers, rescue workers and other emergency personnel to risk their lives unnecessarily."
Tropical storms and hurricanes are unpredictable. All boaters are urged to keep up to date on the path of this storm and take the appropriate actions. To find out more about properly mooring vessels, reporting debris and for other useful information, go to MyFWC.com/Boating. Report damaged markers by calling 866-405-BUOY (866-405-2869).