Follow speed regulations and channel markers.
Speed zones and channel markers are safety devices used to provide guidance in
dangerous areas, prevent boats from running aground, and help protect the shoreline
Buoys and markers may also indicate areas of ecological or biological importance, such
as natural seagrass beds or marine mammal protected areas.
High speeds in shallow waters can stir up ground sediments. Such turbulence not only
affects sea plants and bottom-dwelling organisms, but also impairs your ability to see
sandbars, submerged obstacles, dangerous shoals, or surfacing marine animals (such
as manatees or sea turtles). Sand churned up from the bottom can also damage your
engine's cooling system and lead to costly repairs.
If you become grounded, do not attempt to motor your way out.
This could cause serious damage not only to your motor and propellers, but also to the
seafloor and local marine organisms.
If you sight a marine mammal such as a manatee, dolphin or whale, slow down and keep
a safe distance of 100 yards. It is illegal to feed, harass, molest, or injure a marine
When anchoring, use mooring buoys or appropriate ground tackle, lower your anchor
slowly and check your holding grounds.
Anchoring on rubble, coral reefs, or sea grass is unsafe and will destroy the underwater
|Above from the US Coast Guard
KEEPING YOUR BOTTOM OFF THE BOTTOM!
WARNING - navigation around coral reefs and seagrass can be tricky!
WHY SHOULD YOU LEARN TO "READ" WATER COLOR?
Many boaters do not realize that coral reefs and seagrass beds in the Florida Keys can be
growing within inches of the water's surface whether they are located close to shore or
several miles from shore.
The following navigation tips are provided to make your boating experience easier and safer
and to insure that others will be able to enjoy the same spectacular and irreplaceable
BROWN, BROWN RUN AGROUND
Reef formations that grow close to the water's surface and shallow sea grass beds will
make the water appear brown. Such areas should be avoided to keep from running
aground and damaging both your boat and these sensitive habitats.
WHITE, WHITE YOU MIGHT
Sand bars and shallow rubble areas appear white. These areas can be deceiving and may
be much shallower than they appear. Navigate with caution around these areas.
GREEN, GREEN NICE & CLEAN
Green water usually indicates an area free of shallow reefs or seagrass beds. Navigation of
small, shallow draft boats in these areas is generally safe. However, larger, deeper draft
boats should exercise caution. All boaters should carry and consult the appropriate NOAA
BLUE, BLUE CRUISE ON THROUGH
Deep water areas, such as the ocean side of a reef may appear blue. Navigation in these
areas is free from hazardous contact with reefs or seagrass beds. Remember, however,
that coral reefs rise abruptly from deep water so give yourself plenty of room to maneuver.
Turn off your engine immediately. Do not attempt to use your engine to power off the reef or
grass flat, which could damage your boat as well as these important habitats. If possible,
raise your lower unit or outdrive and allow your vessel to drift free from the shallow area. If
you cannot drift free, radio Coast Guard, Sanctuary Patrol or Marine Patrol on VHF Channel
16 to provide you with assistance.
CORAL REEFS are an essential marine habitat that fish and many other marine creatures
need to live, eat and reproduce Corals grow very slowly, some at a rate of 2 centimeters
per year. Boat groundings can instantly pulverize coral, leaving areas open to infection by
disease and devastating a thriving coral reef community.
Damage to seagrass beds can be equally devastating. Seagrass beds act as a nursery
and feeding ground for numerous organisms. They also filter excess nutrients and trap
sediments, thereby providing the clean, clear water essential for coral reefs. By running
aground or even motoring in very shallow water, boats can scar seagrass beds. These
narrow sand channels can grow wider and wider, decreasing the seabed's ability to protect
the reef and provide a healthy community for marine creatures.
MORE HELPFUL NAVIGATION HINTS....USE EXTRA CAUTION when there is extensive
cloud cover, a glassy calm sea state, extreme sun glare murky water. These are conditions
when colors may not be apparent.Mooring buoys are located in the Florida Keys National
Marine Sanctuary to keep boaters from damaging coral with their anchors. Some mooring
buoys are located near extremely shallow reefs. Do not attempt to motor across a reef to
reach a mooring buoy.
Polarized sunglasses are very helpful in distinguishing water colors.For Key Largo
National Marine Sanctuary, use NOAA chart #11462.For Looe Key National Marine
Sanctuary, use NOAA chart #11445 or 11442.NOAA navigation charts are available at many
marine supply stores throughout the Keys.
For a complete guide to the charts available for the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, contact
NOAA's Charts & Publications Branch at 301-436-6990.
Text above provided by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Before heading out, check weather conditions. Strong winds and rough seas can result
in poor visibility and reduce safe interaction at the reef.
Dumping trash at sea is illegal; plastic bags and other debris can injure or kill marine
animals. Bring your trash back to shore and recycle it. Try to retrieve fishing gear and
equipment, especially monofilament line.
Use sewage pump-out facility and biodegradable bilge cleaner and never discharge
bilge water at the reef.
Use reef mooring buoys or anchor in sandy areas away from coral and seagrasses so
that anchor, chain, and line do not contact or damage coral or seagrasses.
Accidental boat groundings damage coral and seagrasses. Consult tide and
navigational charts and steer clear of shallow areas. Fine are imposed for such damage.
Avoid areas which appear brown in color. Shallow reef areas and seagrass beds will
If you run aground; immediately turn the engine off, and tilt it up if possible. Do not try to
motor off. Wait until high tide to remove the vessel. Call for assistance when necessary.
When in a diving area, slow down to an idle speed.
Fishermen, do not troll over or near divers. Stay at least 100 feet from a red and white
diver down flag and watch for bubbles.
Florida law requires a fishing license. Applicable size, bag limits, and seasons must be
observed when harvesting seafood. Release all the fish you cannot eat.
Don't throw fish carcasses or wrung lobsters overboard or into canals as they
decompose and degrade water quality.
Avoid wildlife disturbance; stay 100 yards or more offshore; keep speed, noise and
wakes to a minimum near mangroves.
Camping, campfires and collecting of any kind are prohibited in all National Wildlife
Refuges. Personal watercraft and airboats are illegal in all National Parks and Wildlife
Refuges in the Florida Keys.
Other rules and regulations apply in various areas of the Florida Keys. Check with the
appropriate governing agencies.
Above written by:
201 William St
Key West, FL 33040
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