Safety At The Forefront As Boating Season Begins
Memorial Day yesterday marked the traditional start of the summer boating season. And as vessels begin to ply the waters across the region, safety is a concern.
Boats are coming out of storage and marina business is ramping up as warmer weather brings sailors to the region’s waterways. As the vessels enter the water, the Coast Guard Auxiliary is offering safety classes and free boat inspections. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 15-8 Plattsburgh Public Education Officer Robert Shivokevich says boaters must know a number of rules and regulations, including what on-board equipment is required. “They have to have up-to-date flares, a life jacket for each individual person that properly fits and is in serviceable condition. They have to make sure they have all their fire extinguishers, sounding devices. They also have to realize that in New York State a law just got passed for May 1st this year that anybody under the age of 18 has to have a boating safety course certificate in order to operate a boat by themselves. And anybody in Vermont born after January 1st, 1974 has to have a safe boating certificate.”
The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers free boat inspections and advice. Division 15 works from Saugerties to the Canadian border. Vice Commander Charles Poltenson recommends every boater get a Courtesy Vessel Safety Check. “We’re looking at life jackets, registration and numbering, navigation lights, ventilation if you’re a big enough boat, fire extinguishers, distress signals. Something if we find when we go through you don’t have, you can correct the problem and then we’ll do another inspection and then you’ll get the sticker. If you get inspected by the active duty Coast Guard, which has law enforcement powers we don’t have, or local law enforcement, they will give you a citation.”
U.S. Coast Guard Station Burlington Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas McGowen says a key to safety is maintaining communications, and to accomplish that, the agency is prompting those who go out on waterways have a Float Plan. “It pretty much is saying how to get ahold of them, where they’re going to be, how long they’re going to be underway and small check sheet making sure that they have all their safety equipment. They give this Float Plan to a family member or someone that is staying on shore. We know how to get ahold of them because we have communications via radio or cell phone.”
One of the biggest safety failings of boaters is not using lifejackets. NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Director of Marine Services Brian Kempf says people tend to underestimate water’s dangers. “Statistically eighty percent of the people that lose their lives each year in boating accidents might have survived if they had simply been wearing their life jacket. Because most of the deaths related with boating are drowning related. And it’s because someone unexpectedly suddenly finds themself in the water.”
Auxiliary Vice Commander Charles Poltenson offered statistics that indicate most people drown within 6 feet of rescue, emphasizing the need to wear a life jacket properly.