By Andrew Wroblewski
Safe Boating Week is nearly here, and, this year in Huntington, it’s expected to be bigger than ever.
The annual call for water safety begins Saturday and continues on through Wednesday with a boatload of classes, seminars and events scheduled around town, including the fourth annual Waterfront Festival slated for 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday at Mill Dam Ball Field in Halesite.
“This year we are proud to offer the biggest series to date,” said Jackie Martin, executive officer of the Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs, and event chairperson. “We expect an increase in boat traffic in our area waterways and on Long Island Sound this summer, and it’s important for every boater to be knowledgeable about safety on the water.”
Huntington’s involvement in the nationally-recognized safe boating week began in the year following a fatal July 4, 2012 boating disaster in the waters of Oyster Bay Harbor off of Lloyd Neck. Three children were killed after a 34-foot cabin cruiser they were aboard capsized during a fireworks display.
Since then, Jon Ten Haagen, Greater Huntington Boating Council executive officer, said boating safety improvements have been made, but he stressed that more work is needed.
“Unfortunately you have tens of thousands of boats on the Long Island Sound, and there are people who have been doing it for 15, 20, 30, 40 years, who, for the most part, are fairly knowledgeable, but they're not keeping up with the changing times. After a while, you get so comfortable that you don’t pay attention to what you should,” Ten Haagen said.
He stressed a need for more stringent state regulations to be put into place, describing proposed boat safety legislation similar to that found in states of Connecticut, New Jersey, Florida and California – “Laws that have teeth to them,” he said.
Ten Haagen said the boating council has lobbied state leaders for further improvements, particularly those pertaining to boating while intoxicated. He said he wants parity between BWI and driving while intoxicated laws, linking drivers and boating licenses so points can be applied. He also wants mandatory education to be established, including an in-person test required before a boat can be registered with the state.
This could benefit even the most seasoned boaters, he said, “I’ve been boating since I was 10 years old and, quite honestly, I took the [New York State Safe Boating Course] a couple of years ago and there were a couple of things I learned. Nobody can know everything.”
As part of Safe Boating Week, a free offering of that eight-hour course will be given 6-10 p.m. on both May 23 and May 24 at Huntington Town Hall. To register, call 631-351-3256.
But first, the week kicks off on Saturday with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary-sanctioned Paddlesports America class focusing on safety procedures for canoeists and kayakers. The free, four-hour class is slated to begin at 11:30 a.m. at Easy East Adventures Outfitters (11 Mill Dam Road, Huntington).
Also on Saturday, free vessel inspections are being offered courtesy of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. For more information, call Ken at 631-366-3081, or Teri at 631-271-2503.
Then, on Sunday, the Waterfront Festival promises to loads of food, drinks, entertainment, vendor displays and safety information.
“The Waterfront Festival helps kick off the boating season by emphasizing both the latest new technology and a focus on recreational boaters’ responsibility for boating safety,” said Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone. “By including educational seminars, the festival is an integral part of Safe Boating Week… It’s another example of the Town’s longstanding commitment to promoting recreational boating and boating safety.”
A free lecture focusing on the burning of the General Slocum while en route to Huntington in 1904 will also be given by Huntington Maritime Services Director Edward Carr at Harborfields Library on Tuesday at 7 p.m. No registration is required.
The week closes out on Wednesday with another free course, “Suddenly in Command,” which will focus on the steps that should be taken should a captain become incapacitated or fall overboard. The course is scheduled for 7-10 p.m. at the Huntington Yacht Club and will be given by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
For more information about classes, boat inspections and sponsorship and vendor opportunities, visit Huntingtonsafeboatingweek.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.