The three-day Memorial Day weekend means many people will be putting their boats in the water, perhaps for the first time this year, as they enjoy an extra day off on the way to a long, warm, safe summer.
You shouldn’t need a list of victims of past boating accidents or a pile of frightening statistics to inspire you to operate your boat safely. If you’re responsible enough to own and operate a boat, you should be responsible enough to use it in a manner that ensures your passengers, other boaters, and others enjoying the water get out alive and unhurt.
Do you really want to ruin your life or someone else’s life for a boat ride? Of course you don’t.
So no sobering stats today. Just some information.
While there are no roads and painted lines on the water, there are rules and laws that all boaters must follow.
And while there are no police cars camped out behind bushes in the median strip, there are police boat patrols out in force, starting this weekend, to ensure boaters follow those laws.
Help yourself out by getting a copy of the 68-page Boating Guide from the state Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
You can download or print a copy of it by visiting this website: https://parks.ny.gov/documents/recreation/boating/2017NYSBoatersGuide.pdf.
It gives you all the information you need about registration, trailering and transport, safety equipment that must be onboard, and the rules of the water.
Here are some basics.
First, all operators of motorized water vessels must have a boating license and complete a state-approved boating safety course. Visit this website for a list of courses: https://www.register-ed.com/programs/new_york/252-new-york-safe-boating-courses. The courses are often free, but you usually have to pay a small cost for the certificate. Get on this right away.
Second, every passenger on every type of vessel (motorboat, rowboat, canoe, kayak) has to have a life jacket, and all kids under age 12 must be wearing one at all times.
Anyone being towed on a rope by a boat (water skis, inflatables) also has to be wearing one. Yes, life jackets cumbersome and hot.
But even good swimmers, adults or kids, can drown in a lake or river. Put them on while on the water.
Speed and alcohol can be killers, and the state has strict laws and stiff punishments for those who operate boats unsafely.
As with for cars, penalties for boating under the influence of alcohol vary with the level of impairment. The lightest penalty for a first offense is a fine of $300 to $500. A third offense within 10 years is a misdemeanor with a $750 to $1,500 fine, a maximum of 180 days in jail, or both.
A first offense for operating a boat while impaired by drugs is a misdemeanor, with a $500 to $1,000 fine, a maximum of a year in jail, or both. The third offense within 10 years is felony with a $2,000 to $10,000 fine and a maximum of seven years in prison, or both.
So to wrap up: Take a boating course. Don’t drink or take drugs while operating a boat. Make sure everyone’s got their life jackets on. Control your speed and follow the rules of the water.
It’s all about fun. Have fun safely.