Bay Water Boat Club is offering free safe boating classes on Friday mornings at 9 a.m. this season for their members and for the general public.
On a recent Friday, Bay Water Exclusive Boat Club and Rentals Vice President Adam Botana captained one of the company’s pontoon boats and took a group of boaters out on the water for an educational experience about local waters. Of the five passengers, two were club members eager for a refresher course and three were new to the area, one from Ohio and two from Wisconsin. Bailey, Botana’s black Lab mix, kept an eye out for dolphins.
“I know the lakes up north, but don’t know what all the markers mean,” said Ron Ekis, who recently moved to Southwest Florida from Ohio. Botana explained: Keep the green on the right and the red on the left heading out to the bay. It’s just the reverse when returning.
Heading north out to the bay, designated the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve, Botana pointed out the locations and the importance and fragility of the seagrass and the damage or scarring that happens when uninformed boaters drive over it. “It takes 10 years to grow up again if a propeller hits it. Seahorse, puffers and grouper spawn in the seagrass. It’s like a giant aquarium,” he said.
Bay Water Boat Club is working with the Tamiami Sportsman’s Coalition and FGCU’s Vester Field Station to protect the seagrass areas. ”We expect to cut a check for $12,000 to $15,000 to pay for making and installing signs marking the area as a ‘no motor’ zone,” said Botana. “We’re pretty excited about this.”
Boaters are advised to follow the markers and stay within the channel, which is at least 2 to 3 feet deep. “Markers are your best depth finders,” said Botana. Outside the channel, boaters can run aground.
To demonstrate, Botana intentionally slowly steered the boat to the right out of the channel. The shallow water and sand brought the boat to a stop. “When you get stuck, trim it up and back it off,” he explained and we were back in the channel again.
Those onboard also wanted to know where to beach their boats and where to find dockside restaurants. “At least 14 restaurants and four beaches are within easy access,” said Botana. “Our waterways are the best.”
Both David Vandehey and Emmet Welter, new arrivals from Wisconsin, wanted to get to know the area. After the 90-minute trip, they had learned quite a bit.
“We’re doing it as long as we get people,” said Botana. Perhaps the only disappointed passenger was Bailey. She didn’t spot any dolphins this trip.
Free safe boating classes: Call 239-495-0455 to reserve a space.