MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, FLA. --
As Florida days begin to get longer and temperatures start to rise, it’s understandable how enticing being on the water can get.
When the population on Tampa Bay becomes denser, crossing into coastal restricted areas becomes a large risk.
Surrounding MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, there are 7.2 miles of CRA monitored by Defenders from the 6th Security Forces Squadron, Marine Patrol crew.
“The Marine Patrol section is employed to provide waterborne deterrence, detection, and response to any threat against MacDill Air Force Base,” said Tech. Sgt. James Himes, NCO in charge of Marine Patrol, assigned to the 6th SFS. “MPS members are posted during all force protection conditions and will initiate traffic stops for all vessels that come within the coastline of MacDill.”
The traffic stops consist of gathering information from personnel onboard the vessel where the details are run through various databases to show any prior run-ins with Marine Patrol.
“From there, since we have a zero tolerance policy, a $280 fine will be issued for the first offense and a $3,000 fine for the second,” added Staff Sgt. Mikel Sudduth, a Marine Patrol crew leader with the 6th SFS. “On this second instance, the operator of the vessel will be charged with federal trespassing on a military installation and the vessel will be impounded, leaving all individuals onboard to be escorted to the main gate to find a way home.”
As serious as crossing into the CRA is, don’t let that discourage you from getting out on the Bay.
There are ‘Prohibited’ signs posted 1,000 yards away from the CRA and within 100 yards of each other to warn boaters they are about to cross into a CRA. These signs leave plenty of space to avoid getting close to restricted areas and encountering Security Forces Airmen.
For personnel with base access, there is a designated section right off the beach on base for non-motorized boats. This is a location for paddleboarding, kayaking and all things like it, located by Sea Scapes.
“With our location in the middle of the bay, we routinely get people coming in the area, mainly people who aren’t paying attention to the marked signs,” said Sudduth. “Before going out on the Bay, the U.S. Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, and pretty much any other entity on the water, will offer maps that have all CRAs mapped out.
“Also, each restricted area will be outlined on all nautical maps. It’s important to know that MacDill is not the only CRA in the Bay.”
Being on the Bay in a motorized vessel is a significant pastime, especially during warm, sunny days. To prevent mishaps and crossing into restricted waters, boaters are encouraged to become familiar with where the CRAs are located.