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Herb Herman

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.

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A Coast Guard Auxiliary boat. Photo Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard

By Herb Herman

The Port Jefferson flotilla of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary has been designated flotilla of the year. This is an award presented to the flotilla by the auxiliary’s 22nd Division of the 1st Southern Region of the Auxiliary. The 22 Division includes the auxiliary’s seven flotillas on Long Island, all of which report to the Coast Guard station at Eaton’s Neck.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, created by an act of Congress in 1939, is an all-volunteer civilian branch of the Coast Guard, acting as a “force multiplier,” where auxiliary members, both men and women, frequently aid the Coast Guard in wide-ranging activities. At Coast Guard stations around the country, auxiliary members carry out watch standing, that is, they will engage in communication management for a Coast Guard station. Frequently, they work in the stations’ kitchens, helping in food preparation and service. 

Many auxiliary members are talented craftspeople and will frequently work to support and improve Coast Guard station facilities.

Some 28,000 auxiliary members contribute more than 4.5 million hours of service each year and complete nearly 500,000 boating safety patrol missions to support the Coast Guard. Every year auxiliarists help to save some 500 lives, assist 15,000 distressed boaters, and provide boater safety instruction to more than 500,000 students, adults and children alike. In total, the Coast Guard Auxiliary saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

The Port Jefferson USCG Auxiliary Flotilla, 1st Southern District 14, Division 22, Flotilla 06, was founded in 2003 and now has 29 members. Since its founding, the flotilla has been active in boater education and in patrols within the Long Island Sound and in the Port Jefferson Harbor and Mount Sinai areas. Additionally, in this era of deep concern about terrorism, the flotilla engages in a program to inspect the marine-related facilities and the Port Jefferson Harbor infrastructure in order to discover and to report to the Coast Guard any vulnerability in the marine area. The Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry is of particular interest to the Coast Guard and to the auxiliary. 

The Port Jefferson flotilla, as well as the other six flotillas in Division 22 on Long Island, is actively recruiting men and women of all ages who want to serve their community and country in this unique way. Interested parties are invited to attend meetings, which are held on the second Wednesday of each month at the Port Jefferson Yacht Club on Surf Road at Port Jefferson Harbor. Doors open at 7 p.m. and call to order is at 7:30 p.m. For more information on the activities of the Port Jefferson Flotilla visit www.cgapj.org, email info@cgapj.org or call 631-938-1705.

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

A paddleboard race takes off in Port Jefferson Harbor during the annual Boater's Maritime Festival on June 6, 2015. File photo by Bob Savage

By Herb Herman

There is something special about being in a paddle boat quietly gliding along in the water without disturbing wildlife and taking the opportunity to think about nature.

Additionally, paddling represents a great opportunity to exercise the arms and the upper body. However, all of this growth in paddle sports has a dark side. Unlike power boats, with the growth in paddle craft, the number of fatalities has gone up. In 2015, 29 percent of boating deaths were paddle craft related. In 2016, fatalities climbed even higher. The Coast Guard Auxiliary Strategic Plan for 2018 focuses efforts on addressing the problem by extending information to the paddle craft community.  Additionally, the USCG has generated a Paddle Craft Vessel Safety Check, which is administered by a USCG approved vessel examiner, such as Coast Guard Auxiliary personnel.

USCG vessels. File Photo

The problem with paddle boat safety starts at the retailer from which the crafts are purchased. In sales of power and sailboats, a safety package is commonly included with a new boat purchase, and there are, more likely than not, state’s boating regulations requiring boaters to take state sanctioned courses. This is certainly true of New York state. This has led to more knowledgeable boaters on the water.

In the case of paddle boating, crafts can be purchased online or at big box stores where little or no concern is given to handling and safety on the water.

“Safety equipment offered for sale may be generic rather than specific to location, and the sales personnel may or may not be knowledgeable about local needs,” said Don Goff, the national commodore’s senior advisor for paddle craft. “Many retailers do not have safety equipment specific to paddlers, including distress flags, floatable marine radios, personal locator beacons, and deck lines.”

Paddle craft boating is especially dangerous in a crowded mooring field, where all sorts of craft are maneuvering, and the paddle boater can be surprised by a power boat leaving or seeking a mooring. This problem can also occur in areas that are popular for anchoring. Channels used by ferries can present special challenges for paddlers, due to the limitations in maneuverability of large crafts. It should be remembered by paddlers and small boat operators generally that sailboats underway have limitations in their ability to maneuver and this can lead to collisions. Small fishing boats are frequently overloaded and positioned in the vicinity of harbor entrances and channels, where there is considerable boating traffic. Dangers exist for such boats to be overwhelmed by passing power boats. Of course, all small crafts are particularly vulnerable to changeable weather conditions, and just as any boater should, one must exercise extreme caution in developing bad weather conditions.

“Safety equipment offered for sale may be generic rather than specific to location, and the sales personnel may or may not be knowledgeable about local needs.”

— Don Goff

To alleviate many problems faced in these small craft, users should at least wear personal flotation devices and have a sound-producing device, such as a whistle. Among other requirements, each paddler 13 years of age or older must have a USCG-approved Type I, II, III, or appropriate Type V personal flotation device. It doesn’t have to be worn, although that’s certainly the wisest plan and one that is strongly recommended. A child 12 years old or younger must wear a USCG-approved personal flotation device. The jacket must be in “serviceable condition,” without rips, tears or deterioration that will diminish its performance. A Type V jacket can be used as long as it’s USCG-approved and applicable for the activity. Belt pouch-type inflatable personal flotation devices, must be worn on the person to meet the life jacket regulation.

Those on the water after sunset need to have a flashlight, or similar lighting device, to warn other boaters. As the operator of a vessel, you need to follow the navigation rules. Boaters are also required to report any boating accident or injury to the local reporting authority, either the USCG or other agency that has been delegated that authority.

Above all, when you’re on the water in any kind of craft, be alert and exercise awareness of your environment. Boating can be a highly pleasurable activity when common sense rules are adhered to.

To have your vessel inspected by an Auxiliary member contact the Port Jefferson flotilla by email at info@cgapj.org or by calling 631-938-1705.

Herb Herman is the Flotilla Staff Public Affairs Officer for the 1st Southern District of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

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