PRO’S CORNER: Know When To Call It

A Guide’s Perspective For Knowing When To Cancel A Trip

You and I have something in common, that is, we love to fish. Have you ever went fishing on a bad day and wished you hadn’t?…I have. When I was younger I’d often throw caution to the wind. Since I have matured, with three children and a fishing charter business, the risk factor that I once laughed at is now a profound reality. I’ve pushed just about every variation of small watercraft to their limits under a multitude of conditions and the single most important lesson I’ve learned is to know when to call it.

Years ago I was fishing just off the beach in my Boston Whaler and I saw this fella run by me in a john boat heading into water that didn’t look safe for a vessel that size. I was fishing the leeward side of a shoreline due to high winds and white-caps. A few minutes later I couldn’t see him anymore so I decided to head that direction to check on him. As I approached, to my surprise I, see a man in the water clinging to a cooler. His boat was gone. He said a wave came over the back and he didn’t even have time to grab a life jacket. Needless to say he was glad to see me. We all need to take boating and water safety very seriously.

I’ve learned to double up everything “safety!” I have 2 VHF radios, one fixed unit and one handheld, 2 cell phones just in case one gets wet. I have 2 throwable floatation devices and 10 life jackets on the boat even though I never have more than 6 passengers. I have 2 fire extinguishers and I keep a waterproof orange box with a flare gun and many other survival tools, including flashlights, 1st aid etc. I keep an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) on the boat in case of capsize with no chance to communicate. Let someone on land know where you are going and when to expect you back. If you run off shore, check your radio and make sure others on the boat know how to use it and how to transmit your location if needed.

Last but certainly not least, educate yourself as much as possible about weather conditions. Study the weather daily, make sure to check marine forecasts, radar and hourly forecasts the evening prior and the morning of your trip. If you don’t have radar on your boat, be sure to have an accurately working app on your phone to check radar and weather patterns throughout the day. In Florida, there’s a 50% chance of rain many days in the summer and along with it can be some intense storm cells capable of producing treacherous conditions.

Recently there’s been a rash of boating accidents in our area and as we move into the summer, these incidents will likely increase. Some days we have to take chances, but be sure you haven’t skipped any precautions. We all love tight lines and fighting fish, but we all want to live to fish another day. Don’t be that one we read about that ventured out in bad conditions. Be safe out there and know when to call it and don’t be afraid to call it when conditions dictate.

~ Capt. Jason Shingler, Adrenaline On H20 Charters