Labor Day weekend is a popular time for Gasparilla Island-area boaters to raft-up with friends in a scenic cove or near a sunny sandbar.
Boats are tied side-to-side so owners and their guests can walk from deck to deck to visit, swim and party with their peers. Some raft-ups can grow to more than two-dozen boats long.
Here are 10 tips boaters should keep in mind while rafting up over the long weekend:
Choose your raft-up spot carefully. Pick an area sheltered from wind and waves. Stay clear of navigation channels and cruising lanes.
The first boat in the raft-up should position itself with the whole group in mind and set both a bow and stern anchor.
When approaching a raft-up, have fenders and lines ready. Tell passengers to keep their arms and legs inside the boat at all times. Approach the raft-up slowly. Tie up to one of the end boats using bow and stern lines.
Stagger the boats so each one is slightly ahead of or behind the boat next to it. This will keep rigging from touching if the boats are rocked by a wake.
Boaters who can't stay long should tie up on the outside of the raft-up to facilitate their departure.
Turn off boat engines to eliminate the chance of carbon monoxide poisoning, and so props won't be turning with people in the water.
Exercise common courtesy. Ask a boat owner for permission before boarding his or her boat, even if just crossing the deck or platform.
Designate a Sober Skipper for the trip home. Pack plenty of water and juice for hydration.
Even in hot weather, children should wear life jackets to keep them safe, particularly when walking from boat to boat or swimming off the raft-up.
Appoint weather watchers for the group to listen to the radio and check or possible storm activity in the area. Download a free Sea Tow App to your iPhone or Android smartphone, visit www.seatow.com/app.
In 2007, Sea Tow Services International Inc. founder and CEO Capt. Joe Frohnhoefer created the Sea Tow Foundation a 501(3) nonprofit organization to promote safe boating practices. The Foundation's goal is to reduce accidents, fatalities and property damage related to recreational boating. For more information, please visit boatingsafety.com.