The topic has been broached many times before at Siesta Key Association meetings, but new residents raised it again July 7.
Detlef Zimmerman, who, with his wife, Katherine, moved about two months ago to the Key from Switzerland, said everyone with a seawall in front of their home must be concerned about damage from the wakes of boats that do not comply with the “slow” signs in the canals.
The Zimmermans said they regularly call out to folks on fast-moving boats to ask them to lower those engine rpms.
“The ones who speed in the canals don’t care,” said SKA board member Joe Volpe. All anyone can do, he added, is take down the boat registration number, note the time of day and call 365-TAGS to lodge a complaint.
The state will send the offender a notice about the incident, Volpe said.
When the Zimmermans said they didn’t believe enough “slow” signs are posted in the canals, Sarasota County Commission Chairwoman Nora Patterson said, apparently, restrictions exist regarding the number of signs that can be put up. Still, she agreed that more signs would be helpful.
Zimmerman said he thinks the public needs more education about boating regulations.
“I’ve been dealing with this for 11 years,” board member Ann Kaplan said, especially as an advocate for manatee protection.
Adding that she lives on the Grand Canal, Kaplan said that because that canal is so narrow, “it’s dangerous to do anything more than ‘no wake.’”
When she served on the county’s manatee protection committee, Kaplan added, she learned that plans called for changing all the “slow” signs in the canal to “no wake.” She had not been on the canal in months, she said, “So I’m gathering (the signage) hasn’t (been re-marked).”
Katherine Zimmerman said Kaplan was correct.
“Well, that’s actually news to me,” Patterson said.
When she had checked on the issue of “slow” versus “no wake” more than a year ago, she said, she was told that the canal could not have “no wake” signs.
“I’ll get back to you on that,” Patterson added.
When SKA President Catherine Luckner asked if anyone knew what the speed of a boat should be to comply with the “slow” signs, Patterson said she thought it is 6 mph.
Luckner then asked her boating vice president, Peter van Roekens, if he knew the speed. He elicited some laughter when he responded that, having had a sailboat, he never had kept track of the speed.
Patterson also pointed out that an adult in the state does not have to be licensed to drive a boat; only youth under a certain age have to take a safe boating course to be allowed legally to operate a boat.
Zimmerman told the group that a friend of hers had related to her an incident about a 52-year-old male tourist from New York who had come to the area and rented a boat. Her friend later saw him towing it on U.S. 41.
“The beer cans were falling off the boat” onto the road, she said.
Patterson noted that each of the county’s municipalities on the water has a marine patrol officer, and the county has its own marine patrol. A minimum of $1 million a year goes to those enforcement efforts, she said.
Because the county has excellent resources in its U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Patterson said, the SKA could ask someone from the auxiliary to make a presentation on boating regulations at a future meeting.
As far as she knew, Kaplan said, the U.S. Coast Guard has just has one person responsible for all boating in Sarasota County. “So, good luck to us on (enforcement matters),” she said.
The day following the SKA meeting, I made a couple of attempts to reach the Coast Guard about the “no wake” speed and a couple of other matters raised at the meeting. The Washington, D.C., office referred me to the St. Petersburg office. I left a voicemail, but I had heard nothing by late that afternoon.
I also tried searching for the Coast Guard’s public affairs office in Fort Myers. The computer search simply bombed out on that one.
Keep those doors locked
During the SKA’s July 7 meeting, Deputy Chris McGregor, of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, reported that since June 1, the Sheriff’s Office has had 20 reports of thefts from vehicles on Siesta Key — the majority of them were unlocked vehicles.
Most of the victims lost loose change and electronic equipment, such as laptop computers and GPS systems, he said. The electronics end up at pawn shops, he added.
“We do have a suspect,” he told the audience. He said an arrest was anticipated soon.
When Kaplan asked him if any home burglaries had been reported, McGregor said he did not know of any on the Key.
Now that the Fourth of July holiday is over, McGregor said, the Sheriff’s Office is anticipating the usual lull until Labor Day weekend.
The holiday itself
Regarding July Fourth events, McGregor said the Sheriff’s Office recorded just a “handful of arrests.”
As for traffic after the fireworks show at the beach, he said, the rain late in the day cleared out a lot of the visitors before the show. All of the fireworks crowd was off Siesta within 90 minutes to two hours after the show ended, he added; in years past, that process has taken as long as four hours.
Kevin Cooper, executive director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, said the VIP picnic and the fireworks show “went off without a hitch,” except for the rain.
Contact Rachel Brown Hackney at [email protected].