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Boating Gets Safer

Thu, 05/09/2024 - 09:45


As the air gets warmer, many of us begin thinking in earnest about getting on the water, whether on a paddleboard, kayak, or sail or power boat. Not so fast, though — the bays and harbors are still cold, with readings in the 50s, low enough to cause loss of dexterity within 10 minutes of immersion. In a recent incident, two young men rescued several inexperienced boaters on April 18 after the aluminum dinghy they had intended to go fishing in capsized in a rough Manhasset Bay. One of the men told Newsday that the victims appeared to be in shock, did not cry out, and only waved for help. “I guess they were kind of too cold to really move,” Nicholas Liolis said.

According to the most-recent complete United States Coast Guard report, there were 636 boating deaths in U.S. waters in 2022 and more than 2,200 injuries. By far, the majority of 2022 incidents happened in daylight, in clear weather, with light wind, and most were on a Saturday or Sunday. Consistently, inexperience and not paying attention were cited as the key factors in boating accidents. More than 500 of the deaths involved boats 26 feet and under, that is, recreational and pleasure craft. There were no fatalities recorded among commercial boat crews, and surprisingly few reported injuries. The statistics were more or less unchanged from a decade earlier, according to the Coast Guard.

New York State now requires all operators of motorized watercraft 45 and younger to successfully complete a state-approved boating safety course. A 2019 law setting a goal of getting all motor boaters to pass the course was named in memory of Brianna Lieneck, an 11-year-old Long Island girl who was killed in a 2005 boating accident. Brianna’s Law does not apply to operators of sailboats under sail, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, rowboats, or canoes, though some form of abbreviated educational program should really be required. Water is dangerous and not just to powerboaters.

As of next year, the rule will be extended to every motor boat driver, regardless of age. A one-time, eight-hour class will be offered in East Hampton on June 8 by the Peconic Bay Power Squadron; an online version — in Spanish as well as English — is available at no cost at But there are very few other in-person programs available on eastern Long Island. We would like to see the town governments, or perhaps some of the ambulance or police departments, arrange for a whole lot more boating education within their respective jurisdictions.


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