Imagine this, you are out on a friend’s boat, somewhere along the Florida coastline, when the engine packs in. An offshore breeze is pushing you out, and while you have always wanted to visit Cuba, now is not the time.
Your cell phone batteries have died, so you cannot use them to call for help. You ask your friend what they are going to do, and they shrug their shoulders.
Surely you have a radio to call for help, you say? “Broken,” they reply. Or some flares to attract attention? “I never got around to replacing them after getting drunk and using them as fireworks,” they reply.
As you sit there wondering what to do, the sea roughens. You ask your friend for a flotation device. “Sorry, I forgot to load them,” they say, “but I do have some great pieces of steak.” Your friend lights the portable gas stove and begins to grill the steak. Unfortunately, in the process, they set light to some petrol that spilled as they were trying to mend the engine. You grab the fire extinguisher, and you guessed it, it’s empty.
Boat owners need to ensure their craft meet specific standards
Federal law expects boat owners to prepare for unfortunate events by carrying certain items of safety equipment. These include:
- Personal flotation devices
- Fire extinguishers
- Distress flags
- Sound devices such as horns
Vessels under a specific size do not have to carry either radios or EPIRBS, but doing so is good sense.
Carrying equipment is not enough. As you saw in the case of the fire extinguisher, it needs to function. The law requires boat owners to get extinguishers weighed each year to ensure they can do their job. Things like flotation devices and flares also have set lifespans, after which you must replace them.
Things can go wrong on boats, through mechanical failure, accident or simply because the sea and weather are unpredictable. If you suffer harm that the boat owner could have prevented by properly equipping their vessel, you may be able to claim compensation under Florida’s boating laws.