By Danielle Dodder
As part of the Ten Thousand Islands, the National Park Service aptly refers to this area as “a labyrinth of water and mangroves.” Add approximately 5,000 area boats out at any given time to enjoy this natural beauty, and it’s not a big surprise that Collier is one of the top ten counties in Florida for boating accidents, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. The FWC adds that inexperience, inattention and speed were top causes of these accidents.
“There are many reasons to understand safe boating around Marco Island,” points out Laura Carney of the Marco Island Sail and Power Squadron. “Waters constantly change depth, with over a three-foot tide change, gulf water conditions can be considerably different from protected rivers and bays. Channels are narrow, with depths outside that are too shallow for many boats, and navigation buoys can get moved or go missing.” The Marco Island Sail and Power Squadron is dedicated to making boating safe, but also fun, and offers classes and a social network for boaters. It’s part of a national organization that was founded in 1914 as a non-profit committed to safe boating through education.
Boaters can find classes on safe boating, electronics, engine maintenance, weather, and advanced navigation. The Power Squadron also provides free vessel safety inspections. But the organization is about more than just education. One hundred and fifty members provide a network of fellow boaters. The group meets once a month for dinner at the Marco Island Yacht Club. Each dinner hosts a speaker on a different boating topic. “The squadron also has monthly luncheons and group boat trips, both local and overnight. It’s a great way to meet fellow boaters and we are always looking to welcome new members,” adds Carney.
The Marco Island Sail and Power Squadron is offering its next class, “America’s Boating Course,” beginning February 4th. It is a five-session course held at 6:00 PM. The classes are held at 1114 North Collier Boulevard, near the Chamber of Commerce. Carney points out the Squadron hopes to create a bigger, safer sense of community through the classes and through fellowship. “You have peace of mind knowing you are doing all you can do to become a safe, knowledgeable boater. You have the skills to help you in any situation that might arise as you navigate the waters, and you have increased enjoyment with people of similar interests.”