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Date of Issue: May 06, 2009


Be safe on the water, without oil rigs for now

With daytime air temperatures edging into the high 80s and water temps nudging 80 degrees, plus beautiful blue skies and light winds, it is definitely time for boaters to “use ’em if they got ’em.”

Boating season is here.

To commemorate the season, we have National Safe Boating Week May 16-22. It’s a good time to make sure all your gear is up and running, take advantage of a free safety check offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadrons in our area, a check available most weekends at most boat ramps on Anna Maria Island.

And the folks at BoatUS have come up with a crew safety checklist. The point is to make sure everybody on the boat has some basic knowledge of what’s aboard, where it’s located, how to use it and what to do if problems ensue.

The list includes giving everyone on board a correctly sized life jacket, show each person how to put it on — and maybe forget to tell each one how to take it off so he or she will wear it on the water? — or otherwise demonstrate where the jackets are stored.

A useful tip is to get people in their jacket, get it fitted, then put their name on the personal flotation device via a piece of tape so they know which is theirs.

There also are a lot of new PFDs on the market these days that in no way resemble the old cumbersome behemoths of World War II days. Some are about the size of a typical fanny pack and inflate via an air cartridge. Tuck the top over your head and you’re floating. They run about $80, but aren’t the lives of you, your family, friends and crew worth the expense?

Show everyone how to use man-overboard gear, too.

All fire extinguishers should be easily accessed and everyone aboard should know how to use them. Explain the different types of fire extinguishers on the vessel.

Ditto flares.

Not all boats can be stopped in the water the same way, either by turning off the engine or shutting off the fuel. Make sure everyone aboard knows how to do the deed.

If your boat has a VHF radio, give a quick lesson of how to use it to all on board. Use of the Chartplotter, GPS and Loran should also be get some attention. It’s not all that complicated.

And show everyone how to run the boat and let them give it a try.

Play out the possibility that in the event the driver tumbles over the side, the shut-off lanyard should kill the engine. But, also assume that while the captain is floundering in the water, if no one on board knows how to start the boat, where the man-overboard gear is or how to use it, the current can sweep the captain away from the boat, and if you haven’t planned accordingly, it’s possible no one knows how to start the boat or run it.

Things then get worse, as they always do on a boat when one thing goes wrong …. You get the idea.

 

Oil not issue this season, so far?

Although the making of sausage that is lawmaking in the state of Florida isn’t quite cured as of this writing, it appears that oil derricks will be detained from rising out of the waters off Florida’s shore this year.

But before it was denied in the senate, the Florida House of Representatives passed an 11th-hour measure to allow the governor and cabinet to approve oil rigs in state waters up to about 3 miles from shore. As explained by oil industry lobbyists, the oil that could flow from the underground sources could also flow into state financial coffers.

Environmentalists and tourism officials pointed out — to no avail — oil could also flow onto Sunshine State beaches, killing wildlife and any tourism that results from visitors who might want to enjoy the sun, sand and surf.

“Look at the pretty shell, Mommy! And I got you a nice tar ball, too!” doesn’t make for an appealing advertising campaign.

After the Florida House approved the measure, Florida Senate leaders quickly agreed not to take up the matter of oil drilling offshore this legislative session, set to end last Friday but probably still going on as you read this.

The opinion by the senior chamber was that the matter was too complex and came too late in the process for adequate debate and consideration.

As one House member from Sarasota put it in his minority vote, voting for drilling in the Gulf off Florida would put a "stake in the heart of the economy in my district.”

As well in the heart of all coastal communities.

 

Oily history

Florida lawmakers have been touting oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico as a cash cow for the state for more than 60 years.

According to Eric Ernst of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, a company called Coastal Petroleum bought oil and gas rights within 10 miles of the state’s shore from Naples northward to well into the Florida Panhandle in 1947.

The company would make a move to drill. State officials would stop the action. Coastal would claim the state was making an illegal taking on its rights and sue. The matter would drag through the courts for a few years, then the state would settle.

In 2002, courts ruled the state didn’t have to pay for Coastal’s bluffs any longer, and in 2005 the state paid Coastal $12.5 million to go away.

Then some members of the current group in Tallahassee decided to play the game again.

 

Sandscript factoid

It’s hard to get accurate data regarding oil in the Gulf of Mexico, but most coastal experts generally snicker at the thought of the transformation of Anna Maria’s western vista into something resembling the coastline of Texas or Louisiana.

There’s oil out there, sure, but to such a miniscule degree, they say, that it just isn’t economically feasible to drill.

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