Boater safety over Labor Day weekend

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - In our area, Labor Day weekend is filled with fun while enjoying the beautiful water, but it's important to not get carried away in the fun and stay safe.

Captain of the W.T. Hogarth, Ryan Healy, has been on the water for years.

He knows a thing or two about how to stay safe on the water, especially over the busy Labor Day weekend.

"There are rules to the road, that's the legal definition for it, most everybody is supposed to have an operating vehicle, it's just like driving a car," said Healy.

One thing he believes people might forget is the right of way on the water.

"By law, generally the small boats have to yield to us. They don't know that, they don't know the day shapes, that kinda creates the problem," said Healy.

A member of Healy's crew recognizes another issue that is seen all too often.

"Keep your drinking to a minimum," said crew member on the W.T. Hogarth, Richard "Ragu" Daigle.

They say it only takes one moment for something to go wrong.

"If you're looking behind you while you're, you know, I don't know, chugging a beer, you're probably going to get into a sticky situation eventually," said Healy.

While you may not have your foot on the pedal, that doesn't mean you can't get a DUI.

"DUI, DWI, Coast Guard, Fish and Wildlife, they're out there. They're going to get you. They're going to come aboard. And if you got it and you have the open container and they smell alcohol and maybe a breathalyzer, then you're done," said Daigle.

Boaters say the most important thing to have with you at all times is your VHF radio.

"The radio is the big one. If you can talk to somebody, it's invaluable," said Healy.

A local fisherman said that the radio is especially important for smaller boats and to be mindful of the weather.

"Don't think that you have more time, err on the side of caution and go ahead and come in early because it kicks up fast and waves get big quick," said fisherman Oliver Blackburn.

As conditions can quickly change out on the water, boaters are encouraged to be mindful of their own actions and surroundings.