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Boat owners urged to secure vessels during storms

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission urges boat owners to properly secure their boats in advance of sustained heavy winds from Tropical Storm Ida, which threatens the coast of the Panhandle.

Vessels that break free can cause problems to waterways in the form of fuel and oil pollution; boats drifting into bridges, docks, seawalls and piers; interference with navigation; and damage to the boats themselves.

If boat owners trailer their boats, the FWC recommends they secure their vessels in a safe location, let some air out of the trailer tires, block the wheels and, if possible, anchor the boat down and/or add weight to help keep the boat in place.

According to Florida law, marinas can't force vessels to be removed following a hurricane watch or warning. Florida also has laws that relate to abandoned vessels. The state is often overwhelmed with lost, abandoned and damaged vessels following significant weather events.

Citizens are encouraged to call their local law enforcement agencies or the FWC at 888-404-3922 to report vessels that have broken free.

Information on properly mooring vessels, how to report debris and other helpful information is available at

Also, with Tropical Storm Ida expected to make landfall Tuesday on the Alabama coast, the Boat Association of The United States (BoatU.S.) says heavy rains could be more of a threat with the late-season storm. "In every storm, big and small, we see sinkings as a result of heavy rains," said BoatU.S. director of damage avoidance Bob Adriance. "All it takes is one deck scupper plugged with leaves and the water has nowhere to go, taking the boat down with it."

Boaters can get free hurricane preparation help, including a hurricane preparation worksheet, an in-depth "Guide to Preparing Boats and Marinas for Hurricanes," and checklists for what to do before and after a hurricane strikes, go to the BoatU.S. "Hurricane Resource Center" at