MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In order to keep things safe on the water over the upcoming Columbus Day holiday weekend, Biscayne National Park has partnered up with a number of agencies to crackdown on boaters who pose a risk to themselves or others.

Park officials say the holiday, which runs from through Monday, October 13th, is traditionally the most dangerous weekend of the year for those visiting the park by boat. In recent years safety has improved, however. Fewer boats have been involved in accidents or groundings in the fragile habitat as law enforcement entities increased their presence.

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“We have a very robust force that’s going to be out on the water nearly 24/7 to include several coast guard cutter, several of our other federal agencies,” said Michael Cortese with the U.S. Coast Guard. “The State of Florida’s experiencing an exceptionally deadly year this year.  We’ve had several tragic accidents in Miami-Dade County, as well.”

This weekend special regulations will be enforced. Boaters will directed into a marked anchorage area on the northwest side of Elliott Key. No more than five boats may be rafted together in this area. A minimum of 100 feet is required between single vessels or groups. This allows access for emergency services.

There will be a zero tolerance policy for boating under the influence of alcohol, excessive noise, possessing illegal drugs or promoting unauthorized commercial activities.

“We extended a regulated navigation area south all the way to black point marina where there’s a 15 knot speed restriction in effect,” said Cortese.

To avoid arrest, fines of $5,000 or more, visitors are encouraged to maintain proper safety and navigation gear, have a sober skipper, do not litter and do not operate their boats at night. Boaters should also be alert for swimmers.

Safety inspections and “boating under the influence” checks are conducted throughout the weekend.

“Let’s make this a day of celebration and not a day of mourning.  Use good judgement.  Take care of your family and friends that you have out there and if anything, don’t drink and boat at the same time,” said Captain Ignatius Carroll with Miami Fire Rescue.

Boaters are also reminded to call and plan ahead to avoid any disappointment.  Miami-Dade Parks and RecreationDepartment urges boaters to contact its marinas for updates on important information before heading out to launch, including:

  • Best times to launch in order to avoid delays
  • Updates on traffic and parking conditions
  • Availability and affordability of short-term wet slips for the holiday weekend

Boaters should be aware that large holiday crowds at peak times can mean limited parking spaces for vehicles with boat trailers. Calling ahead and advance planning makes for a more enjoyable and successful boating experience.

Here is the contact and location information for the six marinas within the Miami-Dade Parks system:

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Bill Bird Marina
Haulover Park
10800 Collins Ave., Miami
(305) 947-3525

*Black Point Marina
24775 SW 87th Ave., Miami
(305) 258-4092

Crandon Park Marina
4000 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne
(305) 361-1281

*Herbert Hoover Marina
Homestead Bayfront Park
9698 SW 328 St., Homestead
(305) 230-3033

Matheson Hammock Marina
9610 Old Cutler Rd., Miami
(305) 665-5475

Pelican Harbor Marina
1275 NE 79th St., Miami
(305) 754-9330

Black Point and Herbert Hoover Marinas are offering discounted rates on wet slips for vessels 27-feet and under. No waiting to launch or retrieve! Please contact those marinas for additional information.

Boaters are also encouraged to sign up for the free Miami-Dade Marina SMS Alerts service. The application provides instant alerts to hazardous weather conditions, as well as boat ramp closures and re-openings.

For more information, click here.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue would like to remind all boaters to play it safe and has offered the following tips. abide by the following safety tips:

• Wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD):  One wearable PFD for each person aboard is required and should be stowed where easily accessible. USCG states that in 2013, 84 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket.
• Have a fire extinguisher onboard: Fire extinguishers are a crucial safety item to have onboard. Always inspect fire extinguishers monthly.
• Test your boat lights: Before leaving the dock, always test boat lights. If the lights are battery-operated, always carry extra batteries.
• Treat the seas like a road: Excessive speed on the seas was one of the top contributing factors to boat accidents in 2013.
• Alcohol and boating don’t mix: In the state of Florida, it is illegal to drive or operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
• Watch the weather: Always check weather warnings and forecasts before leaving shore and while at sea.
• Know your coordinates: In case of an emergency, it’s important to know where you are in open water through coordinates.
• Develop a float plan: Tell a responsible person details about where you will be and how long you will be gone.
• Hydrate: Keep yourself and everyone on board hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

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