Recreational Boating Safety After a Hurricane

October 25, 2022 Services

Recreational boating after a hurricane is unwise.  While the sun is shining and it’s been a couple of weeks after Hurricane Ian made landfall, it left many hazards on land and in the water.  The local bays and canals are loaded with unseen dangers lurking in the water.  You’ve seen the damage, imagine some of that debris in the water. Everything from trees to dangerous germs such as Vibrio vulnificus and tetanus. There are estimates of thousands of vessels producing a toxic soup of gasoline, diesel fuel, engine oil, battery acid, and boat sewage spilling into the waterways.

We’ve seen the power of the wind and waves.  This power can shift the sandy bottom making customary navigation channels become impassable and producing dangerous new sand bars and shoals that can cause you to run aground.

The U.S. Coast Guard Local Notice to Mariners reflects that most Aids to Navigation (ATON’s) and channel markers are off-station, missing, or damaged producing hazards to navigation (HAZ). Due to the passage of Hurricane Ian, aids to navigation may be damaged, destroyed, or submerged. They may be broken just under the water line.  Running over them can damage your boat or outdrive.   Lighted and unlighted buoys may have been moved from their assigned positions, be damaged, extinguished, sunken, or otherwise inoperative. Coast Guard units are actively working to restore the aids to navigation in affected areas. Mariners should not rely entirely on the position or operation of an aid to navigation in these areas and should also employ such other methods of determining their position as may be available. Wrecks, submerged obstructions, and shoals may have moved from charted locations, and pipelines may have become uncovered due to the force of storm surge. Do what the professional captains do and check the most current local notice to mariners (LNM) available on the Coast Guard Navigation Center at before getting underway.

The Coast Guard reminds travelers to the barrier islands to be certain that the operator is a licensed Captain if they are charging you for the trip.  Trips by unlicensed captains are simply illegal, 46 U.S.C. 3318(a)(j)(1)/33 U.S.C. 1232(a).  Owners and operators can face maximum civil penalties of over $59,000 for conducting illegal passenger-for-hire operations. Travelers should ask to see their Merchant Mariner Credentials and inspection certificates before you get underway. Report unlicensed captains to the Coast Guard at 727-824-7534.

The bottom line, reconsider getting underway, at least for now.  Give those who maintain our waterways a chance to recover. They’re working hard to get some resemblance of normalcy.

The US Coast Guard Auxiliary is the lead agency protecting America’s seaward frontier in recreational boating safety. Our vessels and aircraft deploy across the U.S. they aid or save countless boaters every year. Every day the Auxiliary saves the American people hundreds of thousands of dollars in property and saves countless lives.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed civilian component of the U.S. Coast Guard and supports the Coast Guard in nearly all mission areas. The Auxiliary was created by Congress in 1939. For more information, please visit