Lisa Gaines, mother of 7-year-old Victoria Gaines, who was killed in a July 4th boating tragedy in 2012 joined town and maritime community leaders at the Harbormaster’s office, where officials announced plans to increase enforcement against unsafe, intoxicated and speeding boaters in Huntington’s waterways during the 4th of July holiday week. They also announced a joint initiative between Neptune Sail and Power Squadron and the town to provide advanced boating safety training under Huntington’s newly renamed Victoria Gaines Boating Safety Program.
Gaines offered words of caution, including safety tips.
“You are responsible for the wake you leave behind,” and cautioned boat passengers not to assume the boat operator has taken all safety precautions, encouraging passengers to “ask questions.”
On the evening of Thursday, July 4th, from 8:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., the Town will be enforcing a temporary 5 mph boating speed limit in the certain zones as identified on a map, which is available on the town’s website HuntingtonNY.gov and its social media pages.
“The Town implements these temporary speed zones due to the overwhelming number of boats in Huntington’s waters–from 800 to 1,000 boats–for the Fourth of July celebration and the danger that a wake from a speeding boat creates, potentially destabilizing a smaller or overcrowded boat,” said Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). “Sadly, this exact scenario tragically played out in 2012. Seven years ago, Lisa Gaines lost her daughter, Victoria, who was just days shy of her 8th birthday, when the boat they were on capsized in Oyster Bay after a Fourth of July fireworks display.”
Bay Constables will patrol the waters from 7:00 a.m. until 2 o’clock in the morning every day and will be on call 24/7.
“They [bay constables] will continue to support the Suffolk County Marine Bureau to crack down on speeders, intoxicated boaters, conducting boat stops and ensuring boats are operating safely to prevent unnecessary tragedies,” Lupinacci said.
Dom Spada, Acting Director of Maritime Services cautioned boaters planning to enter Huntington’s waterways for the 4th of July fireworks displays about tidal conditions.
“Later in the evening, around 10:30 p.m. on July 4, we will be experiencing mid-tide,” he said. “Rocks and jetties are barely covered by the water during mid-tide, so they may not be visible to boaters, but please stay in the channels and don’t cut your turns short.”
Senior Harbormaster Fred Uvena added that boaters can call the Harbormaster’s office on Channel 9 when their boats’ waste tanks are getting full.
“Please don’t dump your waste water into the harbor; these waterways are a precious natural resource‑we’ll send a pump out boat to you, just call us on Channel 9.”
The town’s map also lists eight boating emergency pickup locations: Powles Dock; Lloyd Neck Bath Club; Huntington Town Dock; Huntington Bay Club; Huntington Beach Community Association Dock; Northport Yacht Club; Soundview Boat Ramp; and Eaton’s Neck Coast Guard Station.
Uvena also advised boaters of the potential destruction a wake can create – even outside of the 5 mph zone – when hundreds of boats are in the water in close proximity. He gave additional safety tips and warned against BWI, boating while intoxicated.
“We will stop you, we will check you, we will bring you to shore, where we’ll do a field sobriety test, and you will be arrested.”
Supervisor Lupinacci also announced the launch of new advanced boating safety training courses offered at Town Hall to help boaters and passengers avoid tragedies on the water: “Under the banner of the Town’s Victoria Gaines Boating Safety Program, I am pleased to announce that the Town is now offering advanced boating safety courses presented by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron, which address planning for and troubleshooting boating emergencies – information that can save lives.”
Philip Quarles, Education Commander for Neptune Sail and Power Squadron, stated: “The Neptune Sail and Power Squadron was founded in 1938 and has been serving Town of Huntington for 83 years teaching boating safety and advanced boating courses. We are honored to be partnering with the Town of Huntington offering classes to residents. “Emergencies on Board” will be offered on August 12. You can learn more by visiting www.neptuneboatingclub.com.”
Gaines said she hopes boaters of all ages and levels of experience continue to educate themselves about boat safety. She believes the new laws on the horizon will ultimately save lives.
“One never thinks this could happen to them and it absolutely can,” she said. “Have a fun and very safe holiday and summer to all.”