FWC encourages safe boating during Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival

Special to Gannett

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reminding all boaters to practice safe boating during the Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival on May 1 in Fort Walton Beach.

The FWC and law enforcement partners, including the United States Coast Guard, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, Okaloosa Island Fire Department, Fort Walton Beach Police Department, Fort Walton Beach Fire Department and several others, will be patrolling the waterways for public safety during the event.

A crowd of boaters gathers in the Santa Rosa Sound during the 2012 Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival.

Law enforcement agencies are encouraging all boaters to enjoy their time on the water but to take a few safety precautions to stay safe. This includes designating a sober boat operator, wearing a life jacket, using an engine cut-off switch lanyard, and paying attention and keeping a proper lookout.

“We encourage the public to enjoy the outdoors and boating is a great way to do that,” said Maj. Craig Duval, commander of the FWC’s Northwest Region. “While on our waterways, please follow the navigational rules while operating vessels. If you see others that are boating carelessly or recklessly, please do not hesitate to report those individuals.”  

Law enforcement agencies will be helping keep people safe by looking for reckless or careless vessel operation and enforcing boating under the influence on any impaired vessel operator. To report any reckless or careless vessel operation, call 888-404-FWCC (3922) or text Tip@MyFWC.com. 

For information on safe boating practices, visit MyFWC.com/Boating and click on “Safety & Education.” For a copy of the 2020 Boating Accident Statistical Report, visit MyFWC.com/Boating and select “Safety & Education” and “Recreational Boating Accidents.”