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Boating Safety

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Boating can be one of the most joyous parts of summer, especially on Long Island. 

There is truly nothing like the breeze running through our hair as we relax with family and friends, soaking up the natural beauty and the overwhelming landscape. 

But it’s important to remember that boating is a privilege, not a right. Despite the fact that a night on the water could create lifelong memories, you don’t need a boat to get to work, the doctor or the grocery store.

This makes it even more imperative to be safe and considerate while on the water. It also makes it even more senseless when tragedies occur. Even the most experienced of boaters, like James Jaronczyk, of Massapequa, who died in the Great South Bay earlier this month, clearly can succumb to the dangers of the water. Sadly, these stories are not unique.

According to the United States Coast Guard, there were 636 boating fatalities nationwide in 2022, a 3.3% decrease from the 658 deaths in 2021. The most devastating aspect of the statistics is that several of the deaths were preventable. 

Of the total fatalities 88 deaths, or 16%, involved alcohol. “Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed and machinery failure,” were other contributing factors, according to the Coast Guard report. Of the victims 75% drowned, and of those drowning victims, 85% were not wearing a life jacket. 

As the Coast Guard advises, boaters must stay sober, check the weather, carry an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon — which signals if you get into trouble — and have VHF-FM radio on hand in case cell service drops. 

Also always let someone who is staying onshore know your float plan, which breaks down where you are going, how long you will be gone, a description of your boat and the safety equipment you have on board. Boating is not a time to take risks or explore coves and inlets you have not been to before, if you do not know what you are doing.

Most importantly, boaters should register for a boating safety course as they can never be too experienced to refresh their knowledge or learn something new. They have an obligation to themselves and those on board to practice responsible boating habits and return home safely. 

We at TBR News Media wish you a happy, fun and safe summer on the water with your families and friends.

Little Bay during a quiet moment before motorboats and skiers arrived. The life preserver allows free arm movement in the canoe. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

In the June 24 edition of the various editions of the TBR News Media newspapers, editor and publisher Leah Dunaief wrote in her weekly column “Between You and Me” about a pleasant Sunday sail in Port Jefferson Harbor in her 16-foot Hobie Cat with her son and daughter-in-law. The sail ended in a capsizing when the wind provided a sudden unexpected gust. Dunaief wrote, “It took us several minutes to sort ourselves out … We worked to untangle ourselves as we clung to the side of one of the overturned pontoons. Then the boat became caught in a mooring into which the wind had blown us. We hoped one of the two boats that came along would stop to help. They passed us by, but one slowed down to take a video of us struggling in the water.”

Fortunately, sailors came by and Dunaief was able, with help, to climb up the boat’s swim ladder to safety. They also assisted in getting the catamaran righted and the two younger Dunaiefs sailed off just as a police boat and fire boat came by “checking to see if all was well. It seems some alert person in a waterfront home in Belle Terre, witnessed the mishap and called 911.” The boaters then took Dunaief home, as she noted, “a drenched dog.”

This incident, which may or may not have been reported and detailed by the police and thus included in the New York State 2021 Recreational Boating Report, ended on a positive note due to the help of these Good Samaritans, rather than the help of other boaters. This incident is a dramatic reminder to everyone who takes to the water that they need to be aware of their responsibility as members of the boating public.

“Rendering Assistance (Good Samaritan Law) — According to Section 41.3 of the Navigation Law: It shall be the duty of every master or pilot of any vessel to render such assistance as he can possibly give to any other vessel coming under his observation and being in distress on account of accident, collision or otherwise.

“If you come across another vessel that is in distress, the law requires you to assist them to the best of your abilities. You are excused from this duty if such assistance: endangers your own vessel — endangers your passengers — interferes with other rescue efforts or law enforcement — will cause further or more extensive damage. Even if you determine that there is a risk to your vessel and passengers you should stay at the scene until a competent rescue team comes on the scene and releases you … If you find that you must put someone in the water to assist another vessel or passenger make sure they are wearing a life jacket.”

In 2020, in the most recent compilation of boating statistics, there were 240 boating accidents reported in New York. Among those accidents there were 127 injuries and 31 fatalities, the highest New York has had since 2003. In Suffolk County in 2020, there were 56 accidents, 40 injuries and five fatalities. The use of a life jacket may have saved many of these victims. A collision between two or more vessels is still the most common type of boating accident and results in the most injuries. The two most common factors in boating collisions are operator inattention and operator inexperience. There is no single answer to reducing either fatalities or collisions, although a little common sense and consideration of other boaters would be a good start. Boating education classes help, but boaters must be willing to apply what they have learned. As detailed in the Recreational Boating Report, “With the continued phasing in of Brianna’s Law continuing in 2022 and ending in 2025 with all ages required to take a Safe Boating Course, we can bring these numbers back down with the hope that New York residents can continue to have a fun but safe experience on the water.”

Yes! The most important part of boating safety is to begin with a boating safety education course. This is especially true for our young people, since they are the future of boating and boating safety.

On an August Monday, my wife and I were canoeing in Little Bay, just west of Setauket Harbor. It was high tide and two high-speed motorboats appeared pulling water skiers. One of these boats, operated by a young man, had no observer on board to watch the skier, a violation of both the boating law and common sense.

The U.S. Coast Guard, Suffolk County Police Marine Division, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons, also known as America’s Boating Club, have been working together in the areas of education and prevention to make recreational boating safe as well as enjoyable.

“One of the rules that boaters may not know,” commented Old Field Point Power Squadron Commander Ron Guzewich, “is that operation of a personal watercraft (PWC) is actually prohibited from sunset to sunrise. And there are other restrictions on the operation of personal watercraft as well. Personal watercraft comprise about 10% of the total registered vessels in New York, yet they are involved in a disproportionate share of accidents.”

Boating courses are available through the United States Power Squadrons — America’s Boating Club at: americasboatingclub.org/learn/online-boating-education/americas-boating-course. In addition, a listing of New York State boating courses may be accessed at nysparks.com/recreation/boating/education.aspx.

The New York State Parks and Recreation Department recommends “The Safe Skipper’s Pledge,” a version of which is recommended by every boating organization. It reads:

• I will assist those in need and report any boating accident in which I’m involved.

• My boat will have USCG approved life jackets, of the proper size, in good condition and readily accessible.

• I will operate in a safe and careful manner, never recklessly, and never while under the influence.

• I will understand and follow the Rules of the Road.

• I will take a boating safety course.

• I will carry the proper equipment while underway, always in good condition and always readily accessible.

• Navigation aids serve as the road signs of the water. I will understand and obey them.

• I will understand and follow the legal requirements for operating a personal watercraft.

• I will remember to follow the rules of safe boating, whether I am pulling skiers or tubers, skin diving, fishing or hunting.

• If my boat has a motor, I will register it with the Department of Motor Vehicles.”

As I wish to end this article on a positive note, I’m including a report contained in the Recreational Boating Report from May 2010. “Long Island Man Recognized for Rescue — A National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Award of Commendation is going to a New York man, Scott Stokkers, of Huntington, for his bravery and selflessness in saving three young lives on Long Island Sound last summer. On the evening of August 14, 2009, Stokkers responded to cries for help from three young boaters whose 10-foot boat took on water and sank in the dark waters of Makamah Beach. Without life jackets, the three young boaters were unable to swim the nearly half mile to shore due to exhaustion. Stokkers carefully approach the panicked boaters, getting them aboard his canoe and safely ashore.”

This commendation also notes the number one cause of boating fatalities in New York State, the lack of a required life preserver, also called PFD, personal flotation device. These boys were lucky for more than one reason.

The Recreational Boating Report notes, “What causes recreational boating accidents fatalities on the water in New York? The obvious answer on the leading type of boating deaths is drowning. During the period 2005 – 2020, 82% of all victims were not wearing a PFD. It is impossible to tell how many people have been saved by wearing a PFD, but the potential consequences of not wearing one are clear.

Improvements in PFDs have made them far more comfortable to wear. Specific PFDs have been developed to maximize safety for specific on water activities such as wake boarding and personal watercraft operation, as well as a new labeling system rolling out on future PFD’s making it easier for users to know the effectiveness of the PFD’s being used.”

It is up to everyone who enjoys boating on the waters surrounding Long Island and, on our lakes, bays and rivers to practice safe boating. We can all have enjoyable experiences on the water if we are knowledgeable, prepared and aware of what is going on around us.     

Past Commander Beverly Tyler is currently chaplain and historian for the Old Field Point Power Squadron with the rank of Senior Navigator, having completed every course of study and practical application of safe boating operation, coastwise and celestial navigation in the United States Power Squadrons — America’s Boating Club.

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Port Jefferson Marina. File Photo

Police said they responded to an incident in Port Jefferson Harbor Sunday when 16 people were found sick with carbon monoxide poisoning on a boat docking at a Port Jeff marina.

Captain Ryan, a 35-foot private boat, was traveling from City Island in the Bronx to Port Jefferson when multiple people onboard became sick with carbon monoxide poisoning at around 2 p.m. June 28. Suffolk County Police said the boat was able to dock at Danford’s Marina with 16 out of 17 people on board sick. Marine Bureau and 6th Precinct police officers, members of the Port Jefferson Fire Department, members of the U.S. Coast Guard, Brookhaven Town Bay Constables and Fire Marshals responded to the dock and determined there was carbon monoxide inside the cabin of the boat, effecting 12 adults and four children ages 10 to 13.

The origin of the carbon monoxide is under investigation but has been ruled non-criminal, police said. After a safety inspection of the vessel, two tickets were issued for having expired safety flares and having less than the required number of life jackets aboard.

The patients were transported via ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital, St. Charles Hospital and Mather  Hospital for treatment.

The Town of Huntington will host boating safety courses for residents. File photo by TBR News Media

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) is encouraging all residents who venture out on Huntington’s waterways to register for the advanced boating safety training course Emergencies on Board, presented by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron in coordination with the Town of Huntington, at Huntington Town Hall on Monday, Aug. 12.

“I am pleased to announce that the town is expanding the boating safety training provided under the Victoria Gaines Boating Safety Program to now include advanced boating safety courses presented by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron, which address planning for and troubleshooting boating emergencies — information that can save lives,” said Lupinacci. Victoria Gaines was a 7-year-old who was killed in a boating accident in 2012.

The Town of Huntington offers free basic boating safety certification training in the spring season leading into the summer boating months. Those who register attend a full 8-hour course, and when they pass the test receive a NYS Boating Safety Credential issued by NYS Parks.

The courses now offered by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron at Town Hall provide advanced boating safety training, which complements the basic training course offered by the town. However, completing the basic boating safety course is not required to attend the advanced training presented by Neptune Sail.

Philip Quarles, education commander for the 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 Aug. 12. You can learn more by visiting www.neptuneboatingclub.com.”

“I want to continue to thank all that devote their time to ensuring the water safety of the boating community. I appreciate the unending support to my advocacy. One never thinks this could happen to them and it absolutely can! My hope is that boaters of all ages and experience levels continue to educate themselves. I believe this coupled with the new laws on the horizon will ultimately save lives,” said Lisa Gaines, Victoria’s mother.

The first presentation of Emergencies on Board at Huntington Town Hall will be on Monday, Aug. 12 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. The course cost is $20.00, made payable on the evening of the event by check to: Neptune Sail and Power Squadron. Space is limited to the first 50 students. Attendees may register at [email protected] or by calling 631-824-7128.

The town held a presentation of Suddenly in Command, another advanced boating safety course presented by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron on Monday, June 24 at Town Hall.

Both Suddenly in Command and Emergencies on Board courses will be offered at Town Hall periodically throughout the year.

Learn more about the Town of Huntington Victoria Gaines Boating Safety Program or register for courses: https://huntingtonny.gov/boating-safety.

 

 

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

By Kyle Barr

As Huntington boat owners get ready to pull up anchor and head out for the start of the season, town officials and maritime police emphasizing boating safety and a plan to crack down on drunk boating.

“Across Long Island and the entire state, boating accidents and deaths have been increasing the last few years,“ Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “At the local level, the coast guard and the
local marine units have noticed fewer boaters wearing life jackets, and general inattention to the rules of the waterways.

Across Long Island and the entire state, boating accidents and deaths have been increasing the last few years.”
– Chad Lupinacci

Lupinacci was joined by Huntington Harbormaster Fred Uvena, members of the Huntington Bay Constable and members of the Suffolk County Marine Bureau at a May 24 press conference where they called for stricter enforcement of speed limits inside Huntington Harbor, awareness of small craft in local waters and a crackdown on boating while intoxicated.

In 2017, there were more than 650 deaths across the country involving boating incidents, according to a report by the U.S. Coast Guard. There were 19 fatal accidents, resulting in 22 deaths, and more than 70 people injured in New York. The overall number of boating-related deaths is less than in 2016, but still represents a general increase over the last few years. The report said that there were 12 boating accidents in the state in which alcohol was found to be a contributing factor, which resulted in one death and 16 injuries in 2017.

“When you come down and get in your boat, the biggest thing we emphasis is common sense,” Uvena said.

The harbormaster emphasized that every boat should have life jackets for every passenger, that boat owners should check their fuel, flares and radio when boarding and that those in charge of the boats should know not to drink and pilot their craft.

There are multiple high-risk areas across Huntington Harbor and all the way out into the entrance to Long Island Sound, according to Uvena, He pointed out that hot spots for incidents include the private beaches along the harbor that host many canoers, paddle boarders and other small craft. There are also the hazardous areas full of protruding rocks along the beach near Huntington Harbor Lighthouse and an area commonly called The Box close to the Northport Power Station.

When you come down and get in your boat, the biggest thing we emphasis is common sense.”
– Fred Uvena

Over the past five years, Uvena said he has seen incidents involving kayakers and paddle boarders increase along with the surge in these activities’ popularity in Huntington. The harbormaster said that they are so low to the water that boaters who fly too fast, too close to the shore have the possibility of clipping them or running over them completely. The U.S. Coast Guard’s statistics show that canoe and kayaks had the second highest total death count at 152 compared to 323 in open motorboat.

”Boaters need to take heed of their speed in the middle of the bay,” Uvena said.

The Harbormaster office is receiving new buoys that have LEDs built in to be more easily seen at night. Uvena expects to receive them by the end of the year, but as the boating season kicks off, the harbor constables can only advise boaters on the dangers of speeding in the harbor and of drinking and boating. Those individuals who are found guilty of boating while intoxicated can face stiff penalties. On the first offense, an individual can receive from a $300 to $500 fine and 15 days in jail; additional offenses result in harsher fines and longer jail time. However, under current law a boating while intoxicated charge does go on a driver’s license or go onto the pilot’s record like a driving while intoxicated in a car would.

Deer Park resident Gina Lieneck has firsthand experience with the potential dangers of boating. In August 2005, she and her family were spending the day tubing off the coast of Fire Island. They were heading back to Bay Shore Marina when out of the dark, another boat approached them from behind at top speed. Lieneck and her husband were severely injured by the boat and its propeller, but her 11-year-old daughter Brianna was killed where she was sitting on the starboard side.

“We need to make this change, and make it now.”
– Gina Lieneck

If a boater is born on or after May 1, 1996, they are required to have a safety certificate to operate a boat, otherwise there is no certificate or license required for any noncommercial boater in New York. Lieneck has been making the long trek to Albany every week for the past three months to lobby for Brianna’s Law, that would require all operators of power-driven boats to take an in-person boating safety class inside state coastal waters.

“We need to make this change, and make it now,” Lieneck said. “We’re not decreasing in accidents, we’re increasing, and we need to think about the safety of everybody on our waterways.”

Uvena said that approximately 300 people attended the three previous safety courses required for prospective boaters under the age of 21, but he said he supports a law that would require similar courses for older boaters. Lupinacci, who before becoming supervisor served as state assemblyman for New York’s 10th District, said he expects Brianna’s Law to get bipartisan support.

“It’s about time that things need to get done about boating safety,” Lupinacci said.

Boating safety is paramout during the summer, especially Labor Day weekend. File photo by Dan Woulfin

By Herb Herman

It’s Labor Day weekend and a great time to go boating. You get the family in the car and go to the marina. Being a responsible boater, first you check the weather forecast and make sure that you won’t face any surprises out on the water. You or someone else will remember the sandwiches and drinks. You get to the boat and go through the required check-off items: examine the fuel level; check oil; see that the personal flotation devices are in the right place — at least one per person and easily accessible in an emergency — check if the anchor is set up for easy deployment; that flares and other emergency items in order; that the hand-held VHF radio is charged and readily available.

Items to check for as you head out to sea

•Personal Flotation Devices — at least one per person on board

•First Aid Kit and blanket

•Very high frequency radio

•Flashlight

•Operational navigational lights

Depth sounder, lead line, sounding pole

•Bilge pump or other de-watering device, portable pump

•Serviceable and sufficient number of fire extinguishers — should be tested occasionally

•Watch or clock

•Visual distress signal

•Sound-producing device

•Compass

•Chart for operating area

•Deviation tables

•Navigational tools

•Binoculars

•Tide tables

•Adequate fenders

•Anchor and anchor line (rode)

•Boat hook

•Cleats in order — sufficient strength — through hulls

•Tools for emergency repairs

Being 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 how to use and wear them. And if you are a diligent boater, you file a float plan with friends, so that in the eventuality that 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 after 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 beautiful day to go boating.

Coast Guard teaches, rather preaches, to their boat crews and to the Coast Guard Auxiliary situational awareness. That is, what’s going on around you. In the parlance of the local guru, mindfulness — the state of knowing the environment in which your boat plows ahead. These include water state, weather now and what’s to come, wind, other boats and buoys and all the impediments that exist on local waters. There should also be a designated lookout in case someone falls overboard.

Above all, know the rules of the road. This includes what to do when boats approach one another. These regulations, also known as colregs, are devised to avoid collisions at sea. The main elements should be learned by way of courses given on Nautical charts, which are 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 and rocks.

If you’re a power boater or a sailor with an accessory motor, you should know about the innards of the beast. Have you enough fuel for your planned voyage? Will you check the oil dipstick, or do you assume marina personnel do it for you? 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? Are water cooling sea cocks open? Can you troubleshoot easy problems? 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 also pay off.

Paddle craft safety is of growing concern to the Coast Guard, with some 22 million Americans enjoying the sport. According to industry figures, some 100,000 canoes, 350,000 kayaks and a very large number of stand-up paddleboard are sold annually. A tragic consequence of these large numbers is that as of 2015, 29 percent of boating deaths were related to paddle crafts. In response, 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. Paddle crafters should wear personal flotation devices and have a sound-producing device, like a whistle, on them at all times.

Herb Herman is a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, 1st Southern District, Division 22, Flotilla 06,
Port Jefferson.

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.

Councilman Neil Foley, left, and Supervisor Ed Romaine stand by the jetty where a Selden man allegedly crashed his boat and then fled the scene. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Town and county officials aren’t taking boating safety lightly, and are urging residents to take precautions while out on the water this summer.

Boating safety was the topic of discussion at a press conference held at the Sandspit Marina in Patchogue Thursday, following a hit-and-run incident on May 24.  Mark Tricarico, 31, of Selden, was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of a boating accident involving injury, according to a Suffolk County Police department press release.

Tricarico allegedly crashed a 23-foot boat into the west jetty at the entrance of the Patchogue River on the night of the 24th. One passenger was treated for minor injuries. Tricarico could not be reached for comment.

“If everyone follows safe boating procedures, most accidents can be prevented,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said on Thursday, just yards away from the site of the incident.

June and July are typically the busiest boating months of the year on Long Island, and Romaine along with Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau Deputy Inspector Ed Vitale urged boaters to be aware of boating laws in the hopes of avoiding a repeat of the events of May 24.

From left, Assistant Deputy County Executive Tim Sini; Police Marine Bureau Deputy Inspector Ed Vitale; Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine; and Brookhaven Councilman Neil Foley at a press conference on boating safety. Photo by Alex Petroski
From left, Assistant Deputy County Executive Tim Sini; Police Marine Bureau Deputy Inspector Ed Vitale; Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine; and Brookhaven Councilman Neil Foley at a press conference on boating safety. Photo by Alex Petroski

Romaine and Vitale also reiterated some general boating safety precautions, like avoiding alcohol while operating a boat, being aware of weather forecasts and following paths set by buoys.

“Stay in the navigable channels,” Romaine said. “Understand what the buoys are for.”

Operating boats while intoxicated was a point everyone touched on.

“You don’t see it that often until you see a boat up on the rocks,” Jesse Mentzel, a bay constable, said in a one on one interview.  “It happens, and they could hit another boat just as easily.”

Assistant Deputy County Executive Tim Sini attended the press conference on behalf of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D).

“We want to make one thing clear—boating while intoxicated will not be tolerated in Suffolk County,” Sini said.

Sini added that there would be checkpoints and patrols to monitor the waterways and ensure that everyone remains safe this summer.

Some additional safety precautions suggested by Romaine and Vitale included a boating course approved by the U.S. Coast Guard as well as a swiming and first-aid course, operating at safe speeds, and designating an assistant skipper in case you are injured or otherwise unable to assume command of the vessel.

“The water can be a very hostile environment,” Vitale said.  “It’s a beautiful looking place and it is truly, but it can be very hostile to people.  You have to pay attention.  You have to be aware of the weather.  You have to be aware of the currents.  This is something that every now and then people get out on the water and they just don’t get it.”

A call for legislative action on eve of boating safety week

Local safe boating advocates don’t want proposed state and federal laws improving safety on the water to lose steam. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Huntington boating safety advocates are calling for new wind in the sails of languishing state and federal measures aimed at making recreational boating safer.

Jackie Martin, commodore of the Greater Huntington Council of Yacht & Boating Clubs, said she wants to see some action on two proposed laws, one state and one federal, that would attack the issue of boating safety from multiple fronts, including increasing boating safety education state and nationwide; and mandating that boat manufacturers create and affix plates publicizing the maximum passenger capacities for vessels shorter than 45 feet and greater than 20 feet.

“Nothing’s been done on this,” Martin said in a phone interview on Friday. “I can also say I’m disappointed.”

The commodore voiced her frustrations just a few days before the launch of the third annual Huntington Safe Boating Week, an event filled with programs highlighting the significance of taking safety precautions and behaving sensibly on the water. The week is a partnership between GHCYBC, town, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Neptune Sail and Power Squadron, which provides boating education classes and seminars.

It’s been a year since either of the bills made any waves. The bills have been referred to committees, according to their latest status updates in the State Assembly and the Library of Congress online databases.

The laws were prompted in part by the deaths of three children in Oyster Bay almost three years ago: Victoria Gaines, 7, Harlie Treanor, 11, and David Aureliano, 12, died when the boat they were on capsized on its way back to shore after a July 4 fireworks show. The 34-foot cabin cruiser was carrying 27 people at the time.

If approved, the New York State legislation would require all boaters in the state’s tidewaters to obtain boating certification issued by either the commissioner, the U.S. Power Squadrons or the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, phasing in the requirements for various age groups by 2020. It would prohibit individuals under the age of 14 to operate a boating vessel, and would eliminate the use of online classes to obtain boating certification, “due to the ineffective educational requirements of said classes,” according to the legislation.

Stephanie Quarles, vice commodore of GHCYBC, said a swift requirement for older boaters to conform to the proposed boating certification standards is key, because many accidents involve older boaters.

“Once you’re a boater, there’s so much to it and it can be dangerous if you’re not careful,” she said. “And it can be an awful lot of fun if you’re in a safe environment.”

Asked why there’s been no movement on the state bill, Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport), a co-sponsor, called the situation “frustrating,” and said that Albany can be “a slow process.” Raia added that there’s been some talk within the state’s parks department about the difficulty of enforcing the proposed law, as it would create two separate boating certification requirements — one for tidewater and another for freshwater.

He also said the bill doesn’t have a New York State Senate sponsor.

“Things don’t necessarily move until there is a Senate sponsor,” he said.

However, the bill has not been forgotten, Raia reassured.

“It’s not dead,” he said. “It’s something that we are talking about – particularly now that the boating season is upon us. The basic problem is nothing in Albany is moving as fast as things should be, even though it makes perfectly clear sense.”

Over on the federal level, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) unveiled legislation last year called the Boating Occupancy and Teaching Safety Act. As of May 20, 2014, the law was in a subcommittee.

Under the bill, states would be required to spend a share of federal funding it already receives under the recreational boating safety program.

Israel’s bill would also require boat manufacturers — as of January 2016 — install a “capacity plate” on boats between 20 and 45 feet in length that list the maximum number of passengers and maximum gross weight it can carry. Federal law already requires this information for boats shorter than 20 feet long, so the bill would expand the regulation.

Caitlin Girouard, communications director for Israel, said the House of Representatives speaker never brought the legislation to the floor for a vote in the last Congress, “but the congressman will be reintroducing the legislation and once again pushing for its passage.” According to the Library of Congress’s database, the bill has no co-sponsors.

Huntington Safe Boating Week starts this Saturday and runs to Friday, May 22. For more information on events go to www.huntingtonsafeboatingweek.com.