The water is the place to be to see the eclipse, but officials urge safety

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — Local agencies know the water is a great place to watch the upcoming eclipse, they also want boaters to know there are several safety and legal issues to consider before you head out on the water Monday.

Coast Guard Sector Charleston says boaters who haven’t done so yet should file float plans with the USCG smartphone app to make it easier and more efficient for the Coast Guard and local law enforcement to respond if they have an emergency.

The Coast Guard says it also plans to monitor for and crack down on unlawful charter operations. To carry paying passengers, a boat’s operator must have a valid USCG Merchant Mariner Credential, and the boat must be USCG certified for safety.

“When I was in third grade I experienced an eclipse on a playground and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world,” said Michael Fiem, owner of Tidal Waves Water Sports on Isle of Palms. “When I heard about this about a year ago I've been thinking about this ever since.”

Fiem’s charter company will offer two hour jet ski safari tours to Capers Island the day of the eclipse, where the moment of totality is expected to be longer. The company will also offer two hour boat charter tours out to the barrier islands.

“They're going to get to enjoy both an on water experience and the eclipse all in one,” he said. “They're going to get to go to unique barrier islands, some of which they've never seen before.”

Several other water sport companies throughout the Lowcountry are offering similar tours. The USCG and CBP tells us they will work around the clock this weekend to make sure the companies are legitimate U.S. companies with proper licenses.

"We've pre-staged assets and personnel to monitor all activity and make sure that it's safe and we can respond in a timely manner,” said Lt. J.B. Zorn with USCG.

Fiem said the benefit of being on the water far surpasses watching the eclipse on land. Fiem said you should opt for the water instead of land since you’re guaranteed a pocket of sunshine despite the cloudy forecast.

“I want to make sure that it's an unobstructed view, so if we see that we have something moving through we're going to move,” he said. “We have the ability to go all the way up to Bulls Bay and all the way south to Dewees.”

Meanwhile, Customs and Border Protection agents in anticipation of eclipse tourists will be increasing patrols to ensure boaters are following federal laws when it comes to coming from a foreign destination.

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