One of the things I worry about a lot on my boat is the possibility of becoming dehydrated. I worry a little about me becoming dehydrated, but I especially worry about my clients becoming affected by this easily avoidable problem.
Isotonic dehydration (equal loss of water and electrolytes from the body) is what the majority of fishermen suffer from when they forget to drink a sufficient amount of proper fluids on their fishing adventure. There are dozens of electrolyte-replenishing drinks on the market today that are well and fine (no, beer is NOT one of them).
If you want to spend your hard-earned money on them, that’s all good. But let me tell you (or just ask any medical professional) nothing beats good old H2O (water, that is).
Not all that long ago, I had a regular client aboard my boat who allowed himself to become so dehydrated that he became nauseated.
Now, just to be fair to him, I will take a little of the blame for this incident since he was on my boat at the time. I should have pushed him to drink more water that day because it was a scorcher and because I know (due to his shy bladder) he only drinks the bare minimum to get by. In other words, he is scared to pee off the side of the boat — which is actually what this column is about. Didn’t see that coming, did ya?
I get asked a lot of questions about fishing and boating by people. The one question I get asked on almost every trip: “Is it OK to pee off the side of the boat?” My response has always been, “If you don’t get caught.” A few weeks ago I was asked this question by a client who really didn’t like my answer (sorry). It started me thinking I should delve a little deeper into this subject so I know what the laws actually are.
I started my research with the 1972 amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 (better known as the Clean Water Act). All I got from this monstrosity was a pulse-pounding migraine. I then read through the Clean Boating Act of 2008, which again is an amendment to the 1948 law. The Clean Boating Act is aimed more at recreational vessels. Luckily, it only causes a slight headache, and it’s worth a quick glance.
But the best information I obtained was from just talking with a few different marine patrol officers from the Manatee, Sarasota and Lee county sheriff’s offices and the FWC. The gist of what I got from all of these agencies is that if you are urinating overboard and taking the means necessary to conceal your private parts, then they couldn’t care less.
A spokesman from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division guaranteed me that they have never made an arrest for someone just urinating from a boat or while wade fishing. That’s a relief (pun intended).
They were all very adamant, though, that if you expose your genitals in front of other boaters or beachgoers, even if it’s just to take a whiz, you can be charged with indecent exposure. If a minor is in view, the charge could be upped to lewd and lascivious conduct, which is a major felony and will land you in the slammer.
If you just can’t bring yourself to go over the side of the boat, there’s always the in-the-water option. This basically consists of submerging your lower half in the water and taking care of business.
This is a good option for women especially, but it also may be the method of choice if you’re boating on crowded waters where privacy is a problem, or if you’re just really modest. A swim ladder is very helpful for getting into and out of the water in this type of situation.
Urine is basically sterile, and there is really no harm in peeing in our local waters. However, please do not defecate in the water. Human feces contain all kinds of harmful pathogens that can cause harm to people. And remember, not only do we fish and swim in our lakes and harbors, but we also drink and shower from them.
You should always carry a bucket on board just in case you can’t make to a restroom in time. If you head over to Laishley Marine in Punta Gorda or your closest West Marine, they can help you find the right marine sanitary device (toilet) to fit your needs that is if you don’t like the 5 gallon bucket idea.
The bottom line is this: Use your common sense and don’t end up dehydrated because you’re scared you’ll have to pee off the boat. It’s just a part of being out on the water.
Also, for you owners of bigger boats, the information in this article is intended for people with boats under 26 feet in length who are on inland or nearshore waters. Boats over 26 feet in length have a whole different set of rules pertaining to marine sanitation laws, which seem to be spelled out much more clearly and are more rigidly enforced. If I ever become an offshore guide, I will learn these laws — but until then, you’re on your own.
Capt. Mike Myers, owner and operator of Reelshark Charters, is a full-time Charlotte Harbor guide, and a co-host of Radio WaterLine every Saturday from 7 to 9 a.m. on KIX 92.9 FM. Having fished the waters all along the Southwest Florida coast for more than 40 years, he has the experience to put anglers on the fish they want. His specialties are sharks, tarpon and the nearshore Gulf waters. For more info, visit ReelShark.com or call Capt. Mike at 941-416-8047.