You’re heading out boating this Columbus Day weekend with family and friends when you suddenly realize you don’t have enough life jackets for everyone on board. If you go ahead and launch anyway, you’re endangering your passengers and you risk getting tagged with a ticket from marine law enforcement officers.
Luckily for you and thanks to Sea Tow Foundation and its generous donors, seven new marinas and boat ramps in Miami-Dade County and the Upper Keys have free loaners for you to use.
“Boaters, kayakers and canoers can simply visit one of our loaner stands and borrow a life jacket at no charge. How simple is that?” said Cindy McCaffery of Sea Tow Services International.
The new locations are: Crandon Park on Key Biscayne; Loggerhead Marina in South Miami; Matheson Hammock Park and Dinner Key, both in Miami; Homestead Bayfront Park in Homestead; Caribbean Club in Key Largo; and Harry Harris Park in Tavernier.
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Other South Florida loaner sites are: Hollywood Municipal Marina and Holland Park Boat Ramp, both in Hollywood; John U. Lloyd Beach State Park boat ramp in Dania Beach; Pelican Harbor Marina in Miami; Haulover Beach in North Miami Beach; and John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo.
The latest additions were the result of a $5,500 donation to Sea Tow from brewery giant Anheuser-Busch and local distributor Eagle Brands. Anheuser-Busch’s Mandy Llanes said they plan to expand the program throughout the state of Florida by Memorial Day weekend 2015.
Miami-Dade County leads the state in boating accidents and injuries. In the overwhelming majority of fatalities, victims weren’t wearing life jackets.
“You are eight times more likely to survive an accident if you’re wearing a life jacket,” Lieutenant Mike Cortese, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Station Miami Beach, said. “All too often, we come up on boats that don’t have enough life jackets. If this program saves one life, it’s a wild success.”