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Making Boat Safety A Priority

The Northwest Daily News reports on how important water safety is, especially this weekend during the Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival. This is a big weekend for us here in Northwest Florida. Many families look forward to this weekend all year. Although the annual Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival takes place on land, thousands celebrate on the water. That makes for a crowded Santa Rosa Sound and puts area law enforcement on high alert. This year's festival, which will be held June 4 to June 6 at Fort Walton Landing, is no different. Officials are already urging the public to obey marine laws and adhere to basic water safety rules. A Michele Nicholson, spokesman for the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office told the Northwest Daily News, "Slow down, keep your head on a swivel and slow down on the alcohol consumption. If people do those things, that will have a major impact on everyone's enjoyment and safety." Like many law enforcement agencies, the Sheriff's Office will have marine units patrolling the sound during the festivities. Also on the water will be the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "Our special operation command team will be patrolling the interior areas," spokeswoman Bekah Nelson said. "That's where the heavy crowds are. ... People want to make sure they have a sober (boat) driver." Although the Billy Bowlegs Festival happens at the Fort Walton downtown landing, many revelers boat to the area and party on the water for hours. Some also boat in for the fireworks on Friday night after Capt. Billy Bowlegs captures the city. On land the Fort Walton Beach Police Department will deploy extra officers to deal with the increased number of visitors to downtown, said Sgt. Tracy Hart. "It's summertime and it's extra people who don't often visit the area," he said. "And we want to make sure everyone is safe." Officers also will support the Sheriff's Office and FWC as it deals with medical calls, boating under the influence and other incidents. "What happens on the water comes on land," Hart said. "We'll be there to assist with that."

Source: http://www.nwfdailynews.com/local/water-safety-a-priority-during-bowlegs-weekend-1.485317

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