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The Boater's Guide to Columbus Day Regatta
How to prepare for the party & be safe

By Compiled by staff reports
Posted Tuesday, October 3, 2006

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The best way to have fun on the water Columbus Day weekend is to be safe and smart. The famous Columbus Day Regatta takes place within the confines of Biscayne National Park, although the regatta itself is a seriously fun sailing event, it has little to do with the intense partying that goes on the in designated anchorages in and around Elliott Key. Traditionally Columbus Day weekend has been a big weekend for boating in Biscayne National Park, and over the years it has gotten a hedonistic reputation. HUNDREDS of boats clog the waterways and unfortunately, thanks to bad judgement and alcohol consumption, some terrible things have happened over the years, like deaths.

Biscayne National Park has special regulations in effect specifically during Columbus Day Weekend. Make sure you keep these in mind when you plan for your weekend on the water:

"Columbus Day Weekend has traditionally drawn large crowds of boaters to the park. In order to provide for the safety of the park's visitors and resources, as well as preserve the qualities for which the park was established, a number of special measures are put in place each year over this busy holiday weekend. Even non-boaters should allow extra travel time, as backups along the road to the Dante Fascell Visitor Center are likely.

To help ensure your safety and the protection of fragile park resources, all boats must anchor within the marked anchorage area off the northern end of Elliott Key, with a maximum of 5 boats may be rafted together, and a minimum distance of 75 feet must be maintained between rafts of vessels, or between individual, non-rafted vessels in the so-called "anchorage area" off the northern end of Elliott Key and indicated in pink on the map below. This special regulation is in effect from 12:01 am on Friday, October 6 through 11:59 pm on Monday, October 9, 2006. These regulations are in place to allow emergency vessels to navigate the area. As always, running lights and anchor lights are required between sunset and sunrise.

Special Emphasis on Existing Regulations

  • Unauthorized Business Operations
    Charters and the sales of food, drink, beads, etc. are prohibited.
  • Commercial Advertising
    Displaying advertising banners on vessels or aircraft is prohibited.
  • Noise
    Vessels with external speakers broadcasting unusually loud music may be cited and the speaker wire will be confiscated.

Additional Aids to Navigation
To assist in navigation at night, lines of white, strobelighted buoys will be used to direct boaters through the Featherbed Cuts. The strobes will be located on the north side of the Featherbed Bank on Friday and Saturday, and will be moved to the south side of the Bank on Sunday.

Lost Swimmers
Visitors who get separated from their boats ("lost swimmers") will be transported to Elliott Key to await eventual transport to the mainland where they can make arrangements to be picked up by friends or family members. Park personnel WILL NOT taxi lost swimmers back to their boats. A small tent will be provided for lost swimmers, but conditions are likely to be hot, humid and extremely buggy. Help minimize your chances of ending up in a miserable situation by keeping the following points in mind:

  • As tempting as an invitation by a pretty girl or cute guy might be, stay with your boat.
  • Know the name of your boat and know the full name of the captain. Knowing that you were on a "white boat with a blue top" is useless in a sea of 1500 boats.
  • Realize that, while a bikini or swim trunks might be comfortable on a 90 degree afternoon, the same outfit may not be appropriate after the sun goes down, temperatures drop and hypothermia sets in.
  • Alcohol clouds good judgement; use it in moderation."
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