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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.

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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.”

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05/18/11 10:25am
05/18/2011 10:25 AM

The New York State Senate passed a new bill this week that requires all boat operators convicted of boating while intoxicated to take a boating safety course.

Currently, those convicted of boating while intoxicated, who are age 21 and over, are required to obtain a boating safety certificate before operating a boat. The new bill, sponsored by upstate Senator John DeFrancisco, expands on that law to include people under the age of 21.

“Long Island’s peak boating season is fast approaching,” said state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who voted in favor of the new legislation. “Educating those who have been convicted of BWI may prevent future tragedies.”

The state Assembly is expected to vote on the bill.

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01/19/11 10:15am
01/19/2011 10:15 AM

PHOTO COURTESY OF NEW YORK BOAT SHOW | The Javits Center in New York, where several local boat dealers are taking part this week in the New York Boat Show, one of the boating business’s major annual events. Here boats are lined up during last year’s show.

Local boat dealers are feeling cautiously optimistic that hard financial times may finally be in their wake. Many are also looking forward to this week’s New York Boat Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan as a way to secure new sales.

Bill Lieblein, co-owner of Port of Egypt Marine in Southold, and Jeff Strong, president of Strong’s Marine, with locations in Mattituck and Flanders, both said that their businesses generate 25 to 30 percent of annual sales from their presence at the boat show.

“The amount of inquiries we’ve had for the show, the amount of appointments we have set up already and quotations that are already in the works is definitely encouraging and up from what it was last year,” Mr. Strong said. “We’re forecasting a 20 percent increase in sales over last year.”

Mr. Lieblein and Mr. Strong said they saw their worst declines in sales during 2008 and 2009. However, both have seen the tide begin to turn, with steady increases from the early part of 2010 to this month.

Mr. Lieblein is hosting two separate booths at the boat show and believes that the key to staying afloat is to diversify a company’s offerings. Port of Egypt will be out in force at the Grady-White Boats booth, as well as hosting their own booth.

He is also promoting the first boat club on the North Fork. Called simply the Port of Egypt Marine Boat Club, the new venture allows boat enthusiasts to lease a boat for a season, avoiding the typical worries of boat ownership, such as maintenance and docking fees. The cost is just shy of $4,000 for the season, which runs from May 1 to Oct. 1. Lessees can use the boat as much as they like and are financially responsible for gas and any damage that might occur. Boats ranging from 18 to 25 feet are available.

“Port of Egypt owns the boat, but people still have a sense of ownership in that the same people will be using these boats,” said Elisa Ruroede, the company’s sales manager. “It’s not like a rental, where someone comes in and you never see them again.”

Boat servicing has kept Port of Egypt from sinking, according to Mr Lieblein. Over at Albertson Marine in Southold, owner Bill Witzke agreed that his service department kept his business on a steady course. When people cannot afford new boats, he said, they tend to pay attention to the vessels they already own.

Mr. Witzke and his crew will be at the boat show at the Mercury Marine booth, although he says he does not depend on the boat show for sales as much as other local boat dealers do.

“I do meet a lot of my customers at the boat show, which is nice,” he said. “It’s good public relations for me. A lot of my customers are from the city area and it’s nice to see them at a different environment. We have a strong customer base and they’re very loyal to us, so it works out well.”

Having cut back on new stock for the past few years, Albertson’s is focused on selling boats already in their inventory.
But one problem that gives boat dealers a sinking feeling, Mr. Witzke noted, is the fact that potential owners are having trouble securing loans to float their boating dreams.

Much as the banking industry has tightened up on real estate, potential lenders are also getting stricter on requirements for boat financing.

“When we typically look at a boat loan, we like to see at least 20 to 25 percent down,” said Kevin Santacroce, chief lending officer for Bridgehampton National Bank. “As for annual percentage rate on a boat loan, it depends on the individual’s credit score and their own personal financial condition, but I’d say we’re looking at 7.5 to 8 percent.”

The boat show opened Wednesday and runs through Sunday, Jan. 23.