06/29/13 5:11pm
06/29/2013 5:11 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The Riverhead Fire Department was one of four fire crews to respond to a distress call from two boats in Long Island Sound Saturday.

Fire officials responded to a distress call from two stranded boats in Long Island Sound between Iron Pier Beach and Reeves Beach Saturday afternoon.

The two boats, a 21-footer and a 24-footer, were stranded without power, according to Riverhead Fire officials at Iron Pier Beach. As of 5 p.m., the boats were anchored in the Sound and no injuries were reported.

The Wading River, Jamesport and Mattituck Fire Departments also responded.

It was unclear how many people were on the boats. No other details were immediately available.

jennifer@timesreview.com

06/22/13 8:00am
06/22/2013 8:00 AM
TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Boaters enjoying a day out on the Peconic Bay last summer.

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Boaters enjoying a day out on the Peconic Bay last summer.

At the risk of receiving an “F” on my final exam, I am compelled to take this occasion to express my deep personal reservations about the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary boating safety course currently being offered — if paying $50 to take a mandatory course can be considered “offering” it — at Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library.

First, a little background. On July 4, 2012, a 34-foot cabin cruiser with 27 passengers aboard capsized in Oyster Bay, L.I., killing three children, ages 8, 11 and 12. The man said to be piloting the boat had “over 25 years of experience on the water, said Michael Treanor, the brother of the owner of the boat,” according to The New York Times.

That the boat was seriously, perhaps even criminally, overloaded was never in doubt. Neither was the dubious judgment of the skipper and the adults who voluntarily came aboard with their children.

What is in serious doubt, however, is the ensuing overreaction of the Suffolk County Legislature, which subsequently passed legislation effectively requiring all county residents operating “a pleasure vessel upon the waters of Suffolk County” to take an 11-hour boating safety course and pass a final exam before being issued a boating safety certificate by “the Commission of the NYS Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; by the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary; or by any other entity that offers a boating course that meets the standards set by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators.”

I take no issue with the idea of requiring a certificate (read: license) to operate a boat in Suffolk. But why are my fellow classmates and I being asked to give up 11 hours over two consecutive Mondays to take a test the majority of us could have passed, I would argue, with little or no advance preparation. It’s like asking someone who has driven a car for 25 years to go back and apply for their learner’s permit and pass the road test and the written test before getting back behind the wheel.

With no disrespect intended toward any of our very knowledgeable Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteer instructors, I imagine several of those attending the class could have been teaching it, based on their decades of operating boats — some for the U.S. military, others as commercial captains.

The reasonable thing to have done would be to require passage of a boat operator’s test — without the unreasonable classroom component. Then, and only then, require the classroom component if the applicant fails the test.

On Monday, during our first classroom session, some very useful information — dealing mostly with rules of navigation — was imparted. But an excruciating amount of time was spent on decidedly esoteric and marginal matters such as the difference between a sloop and a ketch and the fact that some PWCs (Personal Water Crafts; read: Jet Skis) actually can go backwards. (I, for one, did not know that fascinating fact!)

And here’s another consideration: Under the terms of the new law, non-Suffolk County residents will be allowed to operate boats in Suffolk County without certification even if their boats are registered in the county.

But if you own a boat and are a resident of Suffolk County, the following will come as decidedly sobering news: You have until Sept. 13 of this year to obtain your boating safety certificate/license. After that date, you could be fined $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third offense. And, oh yes, you could go to jail for up to a year for that third offense.

And so it is that I will attend class again next Monday morning, if somewhat reluctantly.

As my longtime editor, the former Joan Giger Walker, points out, the opinions expressed above are decidedly debatable. To wit: if a road test is required to operate a car, why not a water test to operate a boat? Accordingly, those holding opposing points of view are hereby invited to express them to me at tgustavson@timesreview.com.

06/02/13 6:20pm
06/02/2013 6:20 PM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Wading River ambulance volunteers assist a couple that was stranded more than a mile off Wading River Town Beach Sunday.

A Ronkonkoma couple spent two hours stranded in the Long Island Sound Sunday after they had to abandon their inflatable rubber motor boat more than a mile off Wading River Town Beach, Riverhead Town Police said.

The husband and wife said they attempted to swim to shore after the boat’s motor died about 3 p.m., police said. Both of them were wearing life jackets and they were brought to shore shortly after 5 p.m. by a civilian with a raft.

Wading River Fire Department and Riverhead Police officials rushed to the town beach, where they evaluated the couple and treated them with oxygen.

The couple told police they had launched the boat from near Hulse Landing Beach and were about a mile and a half off the shore when the motor died.

cmiller@timesreview.com

10/06/12 10:00am
10/06/2012 10:00 AM

SONJA REINHOLT DERR FILE PHOTO | A boater safety bill approved by the Suffolk Legislature aims at reducing on-the-water mishaps, such as when the driver of this powerboat ran up on the Greenport Harbor jetty two summers ago.

Legislation aimed at making Suffolk County waters safer will likely be signed by County Executive Steve Bellone next week, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bellone said Wednesday.

But some local businessmen are hoping Mr. Bellone will reconsider, saying the boater safety bill needs to be rewritten to avoid harming the regional marine industry.

The proposed law, which county legislators passed unanimously on Sept. 13, would require all Suffolk residents to pass an approved boater’s safety course before operating some pleasure boats in Suffolk waters. The law would not apply to rowboats, canoes or kayaks.

“At this point in time it is our intention to sign the legislation,” said the spokeswoman, Vanessa Baird-Streeter, adding there could be a public signing of the legislation late next week. “We want to ensure that Suffolk County waters are safe and that those who are boating understand boating safety. The boating safety certificate for Suffolk County residents will only help to ensure safe travel on our waterways.”

But Captain Joe Frohnhoefer, owner of Southold-based Sea Tow International, which offers towing and other services for boaters in distress, said he worries that the bill could hurt the marine industry and the sale of boats and would be impossible to enforce in such a short time.

“Education is important, but you’re looking at 18 months to train thousands of people and the state doesn’t have the time or the money to get the personnel and materials to do that,” Mr. Frohnhoefer said. He added that he knows several people interested in filing legal challenges if the measure is enacted.

“The bill is kind of discriminatory as it only requires Suffolk County residents to apply for certification, though boaters from Maine, Florida and other states also boat in Suffolk County waters in the summer,” he said.

Alex Galasso, the owner of Larry’s Lighthouse Marina in Aquebogue, said the law is a “bit vague.” He agrees with Captain Frohnhoefer that it carries the potential to chase boaters from local waters.

“This legislation requires Suffolk County residents to get safety certification but not people from outside of the area,” Mr. Galasso said. “So people who know the local waters will need certification, but not people from outside of the area?”

A spokesman for Legislator Steven Stern (D-Huntington), the bill’s sponsor, said he hopes the state will follow the county’s lead and enact a statewide measure.

He noted that neighboring states already require boating licenses.

“If you’re coming from other states, especially New Jersey or Connecticut, you’re OK because you’ve probably gone above and beyond what we’re asking for,” said the spokesman, Brian Galgano. “You don’t need to have a boater’s license in New York like you do in those states.”

Mr. Galgano said the law would not take effect until a year after it’s signed. That would give the Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons and similar organizations offering safe-boating courses that meet the standards set by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators time to “get everyone on board” and receive necessary safety certification.

Mr. Frohnhoefer insisted that a year is still too short a time.

North Fork Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said although the bill’s purpose is laudable and valuable, the county may be preempting the state’s authority.

The executive’s office disagrees. “The legislation clearly states it is over Suffolk County residents having to do with Suffolk County waters,” Ms. Baird-Streeter said.

Mr. Stern said he has “every confidence” that the law would be upheld if challenged. “It’s important to keep in mind that it’s a reasonable, bipartisan legislative initiative that was passed unanimously.”

gvolpe@timesreview.com