Actually I don't read it that way. The first sentence states "in command OR in actual physical control". Ok, which one is it?
A person is Greek if they were born in Greece, or one of his parents is Greek. I was not born in Greece, but that doesn't matter, since one of my parents is Greek.
Logically, to satisfy a requirement that is "this thing" OR "that thing", satisfying at least one of them is sufficient. In other words, according to this law, any person in command of a vessel in Florida waters is operating the vessel. Also, any person in actual physical control of the vessel is operating the vessel.
Note that nowhere does it say that only one person can be considered to be operating a given vessel at any given time.
I agree that it's a bad law, but disagree that it's badly written. The helmsman in this case is probably in some trouble. He should definitely get a lawyer, who should sidestep the "operator" issue and point to the fact that the owner was clearly the master of, or in command of, the vessel, and therefore takes primary responsibility for everything that happens on his vessel. Of course, he should first check to make sure that Florida law respects that ancient and cherished custom of the sea. At the very least, the captain shares the blame and the fine/damages.
To be fair to the system, it's a bit irresponsible to agree to operate (whoops... how about "drive"? "pilot"?) a large, complex machine if you are inexperienced, untrained, and unqualified to do so. If a friend of mine has a motorcycle with a sidecar, and he proposes to sit in the sidecar reading a book while I drive, I hope that I would refuse.