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Veteran Florida boater shares tips as National Safe Boating Week kicks off

Florida veteran captain shares safety tips for National Safe Boating Week
Florida veteran captain shares safety tips for National Safe Boating Week 02:18

WEST PALM BEACH — Captain Rufus Wakeman has nearly four decades of experience on the water. He says the inside of the boat can be unforgiving. 

"There's no seatbelts in a boat," Wakeman said. "Everything's got a sharp corner and it's all hard fiberglass. It's all sharp. It's all hard."

Captain isn't just a nickname. It's his title because of the captain's license he received from the U.S. Coast Guard. He says a boater safety course isn't required in Florida, but he recommends it. So does the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Wakeman says some people use boats that have never been behind a helm before. 

"When you buy a boat. The dealer gives you the key," Wakeman said. "And turns you loose on the world. So we call those people key captains. Because that's really all they know." 

Wakeman says that when he does speed up, he tells everyone on the boat so they can grab onto something. His boat has sonar which tells him how shallow the water is around the boat.

While everyone else in the boat is looking at views, he's looking for anything that could hit the boat. The impact could launch people out of the boat. 

There are often Coast Guard, FWC and sometimes local law enforcement out on the water, so having a horn can alert them quickly if there's an emergency. But Captain Wakeman says the best way to go is safety, first, fun second. Otherwise, Wakeman says an accident can ruin your day.

"Your day went from a nice calm peaceful wonderful day where everybody was having a great time to sheer disaster," Wakeman said.

FWC encourages people to always wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets and for boaters to familiarize themselves with local boating speed zones. Also if alcohol is involved, designate a sober driver.

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