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Boating

Photo from U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary

By Herb Herman

Boating safely is more than common sense. While you don’t have to memorize the marine Rules of the Road to be a safe boater, a careful reading would be beneficial for every boater. Pass oncoming boats port-to-port, always have a look out, have a marine radio available and preferably tuned to channel 16. Use charts so you don’t go aground. Reduce speed in harbors and in tight quarters. Know what the buoys and other channel markers mean, and, above all, be mindful of your environment. The Coast Guard calls this “situational awareness,” a mindset that is useful anywhere and at anytime doing anything, though it’s especially important out on the water. 

Old salts, the veteran hands of boats and sailing, are not born that way — they learn by experience. There is, however, a better way: take a boating safety course. These days, thankfully, boating safety courses are required in most states. These courses are given by government and private parties. The Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Power Squadron give excellent programs that are tried and true and can get a dedicated novice up to speed in a few hours. The problem is getting boaters to sign up for these courses. We have all kinds of excuses, ranging from limited time in our busy lives to talk of, “boating is like driving, all you have to do is steer the boat.” 

But boating is not so simple an activity. Steering a boat is nothing like driving a car. In driving, does the road flow in a direction different from the one you’re going? When’s the last time you’ve seen a road center lines on the water? Does the wind usually effect your driving? Put simply, boating is a unique activity and one that takes some learning to be proficient at.

Granted, there is no better teacher than experience. However, most of us didn’t learn how to drive by getting behind the wheel and driving. We usually took driver training course.  What, then, makes us think that handling a boat doesn’t require training? One full day or a couple of afternoon training sessions can add immeasurably to your enjoyment on the water and may even add years to your life. 

A central feature of the Coast Guard’s safety mantra is the Personal Floatation Device, i.e., life jackets. It is estimated that life jackets could have saved the lives of over 80 percent of boating fatality victims. Accidents can and do happen with terrifying speed on the water. There’s rarely time to reach stowed life jackets. These days floatation aids can be comfortable, so there is no excuse for not wearing one, except for, perhaps, your vanity. Doesn’t look good? How does a drowning victim look after being pulled from the water?

In fact, life jackets are required for jet skiers and paddle boaters. There are other requirements for these activities, all based on common sense. But common sense is sometimes lacking on the water. Observed in Mount Sinai Harbor last summer, a young woman on a stand-up paddler with a young child sitting there, neither of whom had on life jackets. And there are kayakers in Port Jefferson Harbor, silently gliding in and out of the mooring field while an equally mindless power boater heedlessly plows his way between the mooring buoys. These situations are disasters waiting to happen.

We have every opportunity to make this summer’s boating a safe one. Safe boating classes are readily available. Make it a family affair. Make your dream on the water come true and not end tragically. Have the family don their vests and tell them they look great. Don’t boat under the influence. Avoid speeding when it is clearly dangerous. Adhere to regulations that are posted for No Wake, etc. Make certain that your mechanical systems are functioning properly. Be prepared for someone falling overboard or some other accident. And above all, have a Vessel Safety Examination by the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Contact the Port Jefferson Flotilla to arrange an inspection: email: info@cgapj.org or phone: 631-938-1705.

Have a great family summer on the water!

Herb Herman is the flotilla staff officer for public affairs, Port Jefferson Auxiliary Flotilla 14-22-06.

Huntington Harbormaster Fred Uvena gives a tour of accident-prone sites. File Photo by Kyle Barr

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) decided to postpone voting on the town’s new mooring policy after the May 29 public hearing on the issue at Town Hall. 

“The supervisor felt the board needed additional time to contemplate the code changes and accompanying rate increases,” said Lauren Lembo, public information officer for Lupinacci, in response to an email inquiry.

The Wednesday afternoon meeting attracted a large number of speakers opposed to the changes.  Many complaints centered on the additional fees and insurance requirements.  Residents who spoke thought that visiting yachts should be responsible for absorbing additional costs, rather than taxpaying residents. 

The proposed mooring resolution as currently drafted aims to accomplish the following:

• Prevent irresponsible boat ownership and irresponsible boating.

 • Place liability for all costs incurred by the town in removing, storing and disposing of unseaworthy and wrecked vessels on the owner or person responsible for the vessel. 

 • Increase required insurance limits for vessel wreck removal and pollution mitigation; assure those who have concerns that this will, in fact, not require the Town to be named as an additional insured.

 • Lower the cost of transient commercial mooring permits from $200 to $40 to help the local maritime economy.

• Allow the 40 or so commercial baymen who operate in Huntington’s waterways to have their mooring permit included with the issuance or renewal of their commercial license, making it easier to do business in the Town of Huntington.

• Establish a nominal $40 season permit fee to be deposited into the board of trustees account. Non-residents already pay $200 for the same season permit to help cover the costs of vessel wreck removal, pollution mitigation, and remediation of navigational safety hazards.  The fees would also be used to help fund building a database to help the town identify who owns the boats on town moorings in the harbor, so the town can hold violators responsible for hazardous boating safety conditions.

“Our maritime and harbormaster staff often remove debris from the water—dislodged docks from Connecticut, wrecked and abandoned vessels in our own waterways and other hazards that can cause harm to life and property near our shorelines,” Lupinacci said at the meeting. “The town spent over $50,000 last year removing derelict and abandoned boats in an effort to keep the harbor safe to navigate and protect our water quality. Taxpayers should not be on the hook for the consequences of irresponsible boat ownership.”

Police arrive at location of stranded mariners in their raft. Photo from SCPD
The three men rescued from off the Old Field coast in the Long Island Sound. Photo by SCPD

Suffolk police rescued three men who became stranded in a six-foot inflatable raft in the Long Island Sound May 19.

Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers were notified by the U.S. Coast Guard at approximately 4:30 p.m. of an inflatable raft with three male occupants that were unable to make it back to shore. The three were fishing in the Long Island Sound, near Crane Neck Road in Old Field, when they were pulled approximately two miles off shore. Their boat did not have a motor and they were unable to paddle back due to winds blowing between 15 and 20 miles per hour.

Marine Bureau officers Robert Daniels and Peter Bogachunas responded in Marine Delta and located the men within 15 minutes of the initial call. All three occupants, Martin Villatoro, 23, Erick Villatoro, 26, and Ronald Benitez, 17, all of Bay Shore, were transported in Marine Delta, along with their raft, to Sunken Meadow State Park.

All three were wearing life vests and they were not injured.

Photo courtesy of Herb Herman

It’s official — the boating season starts on Memorial Day, May 27. Here’s some tips for you before taking your vessel crashing over
the waves.

You get the family in the car and go to the marina, but being a responsible boater, first of all you check the weather forecast and make sure that you won’t face any surprises out on the water. You get to the boat and go through the required check-off items: the fuel level, check oil, Nav-lights in order, see that the personal flotation devices are in the right place — at least one per person and easily accessible in an emergency, set up the anchor for easy deployment, flares and other emergency items in order and handheld VHF radio charged and readily available. You will have an up-to-date first aid kit on board. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list.

Assuming you are a responsible boater, the final thing to do before you cast off is to inform the passengers and crew as to where the emergency items are and where and how to don the PFDs. And if you are a diligent boater, you file a float plan with friends, so that in the eventuality you aren’t where you’re supposed to be in the coming days, they can inform the Coast Guard of a potential problem.

All of the above seems like a lot of hard work to go out for a day trip to the local anchorage, but with some experience and perhaps some nasty events you will tend to do these things automatically. Better yet, have an actual check-off list so you forget nothing. Then you’ll have a fine day to go boating.

Added to the above list should be what the Coast Guard teaches — rather preaches — to its boat crews and to the Coast Guard Auxiliary as well:

The USCG boating statistics for the U.S. in 2017 are as follows:

• Fatalities: 658 

• Drownings: 449 

• Injuries (requiring medical treatment beyond first aid): 2,629 

• Boating accidents: 4,291 

• Property damage: Approximately $46 million 

• Number of registered recreational boats in the U.S.: 11,961,568 

Situational awareness, that is, what’s going on around you. In the parlance of the local guru, it’s called mindfulness, or the state of knowing the environment in which your boat plows. These include water state, weather — both now and what’s coming — wind, other boats and buoys, and all the impediments that exist on local waters. It’s important to have a designated lookout in case someone falls overboard. 

Above all, know the rules of the road, or the elements that dictate, mainly through common sense, what to do when boats approach one another. This covers a myriad of circumstances in which both professionals and amateurs alike find themselves. These regulations, also known as COLREGS, are devised to avoid collisions at sea. The main elements should be learned either by way of courses given by various authorities, such as the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, or through a variety of books and videos. The Port Jefferson auxiliary gives a Safe Boating Course as well as a course entitled Suddenly in Command, conveying essential know-how when the second-in-command must take over the running of the boat.

You will, of course, have a nautical chart available for the waters in which you wish to sail. The chart, unlike a land road map, gives you broad swaths of safe passages and also tells you which regions to avoid due to shallow depths, rocks and a wide range of impediments. One can navigate using charts — themselves marvels of information collected over years of careful observations by mainly government vessels — your key to safety and enjoyment on the water, whether you’re out for a day or on a longer passage. 

If you’re a power boater or a sailor with an accessory motor, you should know something about the innards of the beast. Have you enough fuel for your planned voyage (boats frequently have notoriously inaccurate fuel gauges). Will you check the oil dip-stick, or do you assume that the marina personnel does that for you? Note they won’t unless you ask them to. Are all your oil, water, fuel and water filters clean and can you change-out a clogged filter? Water cooling sea cocks open? Can you troubleshoot easy problems and do you have the essential tools for such work? Most aspects of inboard and outboard motors can be handled by a layman with a little study. A quick course on troubleshooting your power plant by the marina mechanic can really payoff. Don’t forget that emergency “road side” help from Sea Tow or Boat US can save the day.

Paddle craft safety is of growing concern to the Coast Guard, with over 20 million Americans enjoying the sport. According to industry figures, some 100,000 canoes, 350,000 kayaks and an increasingly large number of stand-up paddlers are sold annually. A tragic consequence of these large numbers is that as of 2015, 29 percent of boating deaths were related to paddle craft. In response, the USCG has generated a Paddle Craft Vessel Safety Check, which is administered free by a USCG-approved vessel examiner, such as Coast Guard auxiliary personnel. Paddle crafters should wear PFDs and have a sound producing device, such as a whistle.

Herb Herman is the flotilla staff officer for public affairs, Port Jefferson Auxiliary Flotilla 14-22-06.

The Weiss family and friends place daisies into the waters off Centerport Yacht Club in memory of Ryan Weiss. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Suffolk County’s newest boating safety law aims to prevent future tragedies like the one that claimed the life of a Greenlawn boy last summer.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed legislation July 28 at Centerport Yacht Club named Ryan’s Law that will require all boats used for instructing minors to be equipped with propeller guards. After the tragic death of their 12-year-old son, Ryan, Greenlawn resident Kellie Weiss and her husband, Kevin, led the charge calling for a law change.

“We stand here forever heartbroken,” Weiss said. “Although this can’t bring Ryan back to us today, we hope that we have the opportunity to protect someone else, some other child out there.”

Ryan died July 18, 2017, when he was taking part in a boating lesson at Centerport Yacht Club where the vessel was intentionally capsized in a controlled manner. An 18-year-old instructor operating a small Zodiac inflatable boat pulled him from the water and onto the inflatable raft. As the instructor started to move the boat forward, Ryan again fell into the water and became entangled in the propeller.

“This is Ryan’s happy place,” Weiss said, wiping away tears. “I know in my heart he did what he loved to do.”

The Weiss family and elected officials look on as Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signs Ryan’s Law. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Under the new law, anyone who owns a boat used for instructional lessons that is registered in Suffolk or operates in county waters must install a propeller guard, a metal cage that surrounds the propeller of a motorized boat. The legislation was unanimously co-sponsored and then approved by all 18 members of the Suffolk County Legislature in June.

“This is a family that has really had to bind together over the last year,” Suffolk Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said, crediting the Weiss’ advocacy in getting the legislation passed. “What they have done is nothing short of incredible, to take something that is so deep and painful, and turn it into something positive.”

The law will take effect in approximately 90 days, giving boat owners an opportunity to modify their watercrafts as necessary. Those caught operating an instructional boat without a propeller guard will be fined between $250 and $500 for first offenses and from $750 to $1,500 for subsequent violations.

Erik Rosanes, commodore of the Centerport Yacht Club, said his club is onboard with the legislation.

“As we continue in our club’s mission to encourage the sport of yachting and educate the next generation of sailors, we look forward to promoting any measures that may improve the safety of our children in and on the water,” Rosanes said.

The Weiss family and members of the yacht club were joined by New York State, Suffolk and Town of Huntington elected officials in placing white daisies into the waters of Northport Harbor in memory of Ryan. Flowers were also placed on a rock marked with his initials.

Kellie Weiss said she is hopeful that one day propeller guards will become mandatory under New York State law.

“We urge every parent who has a child, teen or young adult who is going to be operating a boat or wave runner,” she said. “Think about installing a prop guard to protect your kid. No one wants to get the phone call we got a year ago.”

New policy sets cap on accrual of daily fees while seized boats are in storage

'Kayaks at Bay' by Holly Gordon

By Alex Petroski

In a seemingly ongoing effort to solidify policies regarding the storage of kayaks in Port Jefferson Village, the board of trustees voted to approve additional code changes during an Oct. 16 meeting.

The latest code change will set a minimum opening bid for kayaks and other small vessels previously seized by the village for being left on racks at village beaches past the posted required date for removal to be auctioned off. Each year, residents interested in storage space for their boats enter a lottery, and those selected are permitted to use village racks for the season. Signage near the racks warns owners they need to be removed by Nov. 1, though the village typically allows a several week grace period before it starts seizing abandoned vessels and moving them into storage.

The village still has several unclaimed boats left on racks from the 2016 season, which will be auctioned off Nov. 9. Adherent to the new policy, the minimum bid for any vessel will be $75, or $1 per day in storage plus a $25 fee — whichever total is less. So for example, a vessel in village storage for 10 days would have a minimum opening bid of $35 at auction. Any vessel kept for more than 50 days would have a minimum opening bid of $75.

Signs detailing the Village’s kayak policy are visible year round. File photo by Alex Petroski

“The whole goal is to get this thing rolling,” Village Mayor Margot Garant said during the meeting. The goal behind the connected village policies is to incentivize owners of seized boats to retrieve them from storage while also deincentivizing rack users from leaving them through the winter.

The $1 per day in storage policy makes it less expensive for owners to retrieve abandoned boats then if they were to pay the fines, though they assume the risk of competing with other bidders. The new policy would eliminate the current $10 fee per day for storing abandoned vessels.

Art Worthington, a village resident for more than a decade, is a boat owner who stands to benefit financially from the policy change, though on principal, he said he’s not satisfied with the new rules.

Worthington said during a phone interview, and a village spokesperson confirmed by email, that he stored a 14-foot Sunfish sailboat on village property at the Crystal Brook Hollow Road beach during the 2016 season without a permit, and went to retrieve it for the winter in December 2016, about a month after the posted date warning of possible removal. He said at the time he asked the village by phone if they had seized his boat, and based on his description the spokesperson said it was not in storage. In Sept. 2017, Worthington was granted permission to inspect the storage area, and found that his boat was in fact in the village’s possession. Worthington has since been instructed to bid on his vessel to get it back at auction.

“I’d pay $75 for it, sure, but the bottom line is they’re dead wrong,” he said. “They deprived me of the use of it for a season. They should be giving the people their boats back.”

Worthington said he believes his boat should be returned to him free of charge, and hasn’t decided yet if he will bid on it.

Members of the public can view the vessels up for auction Oct. 27 from 10 to 11 a.m. at East Beach to consider participating in the Nov. 9 auction.

The Huntington Lighthouse is one of 11 overlooking the Long Island Sound in which the U.S. Coast Guard is looking to replace and update the foghorn system. Photo from Pamela Setchell

A proposed plan to change the foghorn at Huntington Lighthouse is already raising alarm among North Shore boaters.

The U.S. Coast Guard is awaiting final approval to switch out the lighthouse’s foghorn from the current automated system to a new boater-operated model. Shifting the responsibility for operation of this essential safety device to the watercraft owners has raised objections from both residents and Huntington Town officials.

“This is not something that should be installed here at all due to the nature of the boating community,” said Pamela Setchell, president of the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society. “The Town of Huntington encompasses five harbors and 5,000 boaters. A lot of those 5,000 boaters are inexperienced.”

The lighthouse’s foghorn is currently activated by a sensor, according to Mark Williams, officer in charge of the Aid and Navigation Team for the Long Island Sound. Williams said the sensor sends out a signal that measures for half-mile distance, if fog or other weather conditions cause visibility drops below a half-mile the foghorn will activate and sound until it clears.

The Coast Guards’s plan is to switch this sensor-activated system out to a new Marine Radio Activated Sound System, known as MRASS for short, in 11 lighthouses overseeing the Sound is an attempt to save time and money on maintenance. In addition to Huntington, other locations on the list include Montauk Point and Orient Point.

“The equipment out there is old, antiquated and almost impossible to find replacement parts for now,” Williams said. “We are going with a new system that the U.S. Coast Guard has tested and approved.”

The MRASS system requires a lighthouse’s foghorn to be activated by boaters with a
Marine Very High Frequency Radio, commonly referred to as a VHF radio, by turning to the 83A frequency and touching the key, which activates the radio fives times, equally spaced apart. Once this signal is received, Wiliams said the lighthouse’s foghorn will sound for the next 30 minutes.

Both Williams and Setchell agree that Huntington Lighthouse is distinctive and unique compared to the many other lighthouses where the new foghorn is proposed, given its close proximity to residential communities and services mostly recreational boaters.

Setchell said as an experienced boater that she fears the new foghorn could be problematic as watercraft owners are not required to have a VHF radio onboard under New York state law — and some recreational boaters don’t. Also, her concern is it places the burden of raising alarm on an individual already in distress.

“When you are lost in the fog in a boat, it’s frightening because you have no idea where you are,” she said. “To sit there and think an inexperienced boater will have the wherewithal and calm to grab their VHF radio, remember to go to 83A, and key the mike five times is ridiculous.”

Williams admitted there is no requirement for boaters to own a VHF radio, but it is highly encouraged.

“There might be small boaters who don’t have anything,” he said. “But we hope vessels of that size with little equipment are not out in the fog or restricted visibility weather.”

Setchell said the residents near the lighthouse, along with the boating community, fear a user-operated system could become the “focus of pranks” by drunken or irresponsible parties. If the signal is keyed in repeatedly, the foghorn will continue to sound for a full 30 minutes from the last time it was activated — with no immediate shutoff.

Huntington Town officials have raised their own concerns about whether changing the foghorn system is in the best interests of the boating community.

“The town shares the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society’s concerns about whether a boater-operated foghorn is appropriate for an area that is almost exclusively used by recreational boaters,” Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said in statement. “We look forward to working with the Lighthouse Preservation Society, the Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs and the Coast Guard to address the issue of a new foghorn that will increase boater safety without unnecessarily intruding on the serenity of those who live along the shore.”

The Town of Huntington has filed a letter with the U.S. Coast Guard outlining its concerns for consideration before the plan is approved.

The same MRASS foghorn plan was proposed for the Huntington Lighthouse in 2009, according to Setchell, but was tabled due to overwhelming public objection after less than a week.

The system has been widely installed across northern New England, according the Williams, with very few complaints.

Any individual or organization who either supports or has concerns about the proposed foghorn replacement can write to the U.S. Coast Guard by sending an email to  mark.p.williams@uscg.mil.

A map of the temporary speed zone restrictions in Huntington during the holiday. Photo from Town of Huntington

The Town of Huntington released a video this week reminding residents to keep safety in mind while enjoying summer boating.

The video highlights the danger of boat wakes and urges boaters to practice safe boating summer-long — especially during the weekend leading up to Independence Day.

The four-minute video is narrated by Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) and was jointly produced with the Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs.

“It’s your responsibility to be a safe boater,” Edwards said in the video. “For many of us, being on a boat is the highlight of the summer. Let’s do all we can to make sure that boating is enjoyable for all of us.”

The video features a demonstration of the effects of a boat’s wake at different speeds on kayakers, shore erosion, wildlife and other boats and reminds boaters to heed markings, speed limits and be aware of other boaters on the water.

In the first few moments of the video, Edwards is on a dock talking about the power the wake off a boat can create, and then the wake of a passing boat soaks her.

“Wow, look at the wake of that boat, and look what it did to me,” Edwards said, shaking off the water from her clothes. “If you’re on that boat, creating that wake may be a lot of fun for you, but not for the people that are out of the water.”

For increased boat safety, the town is establishing a 5 mph speed limit from 8:30 to 11 p.m. in all of Northport Bay and Huntington Bay south from the line extending from Target Rock to Buoy One in Coast Guard Cove, as well as Long Island Sound from the easternmost section of the Northport Power Plant to the westernmost end of the causeway on Asharoken Avenue. This restriction began in response to the 2012 tragedy, when three children died off Oyster Bay Cove when the boat in which they were watching a fireworks show capsized as it was returning to Huntington.

“As July 4 approaches, we again ask all residents to follow the rules and celebrate the holiday in a way that is safe to themselves, their families and guests and respects the rights of others,” Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said in a statement.

This year there are two scheduled fireworks events including one sponsored by Asharoken Village and the other presented by the Dolan family off Cove Neck.

In addition to speed restrictions, some town facilities — Crab Meadow Beach, West Neck/Quentin Sammis Beach, Hobart Beach and the Soundview Boat Ramp — will remain open past sunset, after 5 p.m., but entry will be limited to town residents on a space available basis. Once the parking lot at a particular beach is full, no additional entry will be allowed and police may restrict access on roads leading to the facilities.

The town has been working with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Suffolk County Police Department Marine Bureau and multiple incorporated villages on measures aimed at allowing people to safely get to and get home from fireworks shows. These measures include coordinating patrols and establishing a security zone around the firework barge shooting in the Asharoken area.

To watch the safety video visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1njzVS0NCE.

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Maritime Boater’s Festival June 3 and 4 at Harborfront Park. Community members of all ages came out to enjoy food, music and activities during the two-day festival.

Brilliant, an 85-year-old schooner ship visits Port Jefferson Harbor May 22. Photo by Alex Petroski
Brilliant, an 85-year-old schooner ship visits Port Jefferson Harbor May 22. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Boating enthusiasts in Port Jefferson were treated to a piece of history May 22.

Brilliant, an 85-year-old, 61-foot schooner docked in Port Jefferson Harbor Monday afternoon, just weeks after the anniversary of its launch in 1932.

“It is known as one of the finest and best-maintained wooden vessels in America,” John Lane, former commodore of the Port Jefferson Yacht Club and a 47-year resident of Poquott said in a phone interview. He added that the vessel is “spotless,” and lauded its ahead-of-its time design.

For 65 years, the ship has sailed under the flag of the Mystic Seaport, a Connecticut-based boating museum, and has been used as a training vessel for children and adults interested in honing sailing skills and experiencing full immersion into ship board life.

“After a busy spring and a lot of work by a vast army of crew, volunteers, painters, yard workers, specialists and vendors Brilliant is in top shape,” Brilliant’s Captain Nicholas Alley said in a message posted on the museum’s website ahead of the 2017 boating season. He has been at the helm of the ship for six years. “Now we get to enjoy that labor and take this floating jewelry box out sailing.”

Brilliant was initially built for businessman Walter Barnum, who used it as a racing boat in the 1930s. During World War II, it was used as a patrol vessel for the United States Coast Guard. In 1953 it was donated to the Mystic Seaport. The ship sailed to Oyster Bay last week for three weekends of racing against other classic yachts, and it made a stop in Port Jefferson along the way.

The ship is considered one of the 100 most beautiful classic boats in America by WoodenBoat Magazine. It is estimated to have transported more than 10,000 people in its history.

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