With all the water around us, Central Florida is a natural place for boaters to be.

Every year, more people decide to captain a boat, which means more work for the Coast Guard.

The agency battles the elements to rescue thousands of stranded swimmers and boaters each year, many near Port Canaveral.

So what do you do so the Coast Guard doesn't have to rescue you? Prepare!

"Bad things can go terribly bad, very, very fast," says Captain Kerry Kline, the owner of Sea Tow Central Florida Lakes, an agency that works with the Coast Guard and sheriff's deputies to get people out of trouble.

"We're very similar, if I could use the analogy, to AAA on the water," says Captain Kline.

"There's a lot of people out on the water," says Joyce Oxley, a local boater. "It's just like being out on the street. You gotta drive your boat like you would drive your car, cause it could get you killed."

You drive a car, you wear a seat belt. You ride on a boat, you wear a life jacket. But not everyone does.

"99 percent of the time I see the accidents and the hurt and the pain could have been easily avoided by doing something very, very simple, such as wearing a life jacket," says Captain Kline.

He also believes that all boaters should be required to take a safety course. Right now, the law only demands that boaters born after 1997 take the class.

"It's an eight-hour class that covers all the basics and fundamentals of boating," says Captain Kline. "Where to anchor, the type of safety equipment you're going to need on your boat."

Among that equipment: a marine VHF radio with a direct channel to the Coast Guard, a fire extinguisher, and plenty of flares.

Captain Kline says lots of people like the idea of owning a boat, but don't maintain them. And that increases the risk of something going wrong.

"The first thing you want to do is stay calm," says Captain Kline. "Getting panicked is not going to help the situation. Be more knowledgeable about what you're doing, because when you operate a boat safely and you're out there, you have a great day."

Captain Kline has three other points to keep you safe:

  • When you take your boat out, file a 'float plan'. Tell someone on land where you're going and when you're coming back. If you don't return on schedule, that person knows to call for help.
  •  Always have a mirror handy. If you're in trouble, you can reflect the Sun off the mirror to signal someone in the distance.
  • And when boating, don't drink alcohol. If something goes wrong, you want to be at your best to save yourself.