ST. MARKS, Fla. (WTXL) — What better way to spend a hot spring day than down by the water.
Damien Jemison decided to spend his Friday kayaking, hoping to catch a fish or two.
"This is my second time out on the kayak. I caught about three or four last time."
He enjoys the solitude and peaceful conditions nature has to offer. Something he and other kayakers won't hear much of on this Memorial Day Weekend.
"We know that one of the major contributing causes to boating accidents was the operator was failing to maintain a proper lookout," said Robert Ramos, an officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
He said officers saw more safety hazards on the water during the pandemic last year than in years past.
"Fish and Wildlife Officers had a lot more public encounters earlier out on the season last year because more people had more time off."
Even new boaters putting themselves in harm's way.
"We have 13 percent more boat owners last year than in year's past."
Officers say a lot of hazards, including boating fatalities, are preventable just by taking a boating safety course. A course that is mandatory for boaters born after January 1, 1988.
"In the last year with the fatalities throughout the state of Florida, we know that 60 percent of the individuals involved in a boating fatality had never actually taken that boater educational course"
And that's what brings the FWC out on the water this weekend. With an increase in boat traffic, officers want to make sure everyone out on a vessel has a life jacket.
"Do you have a life jacket that fits everyone on the vessel, do you have a rope throw cushion, flares, fire extinguishers, horns and whistles, is your registration up to date? Those are the requirements you have to adhere to if you want to operate a vessel on the waters of the state."
Important life-saving gear that no boater should leave a dock without.
You can take the boat safety course online by clicking here.