Don’t Miss the Boat
National Fishing and Boating Week is held the first part of June every year, a time to create a better awareness for these popular outdoor pastimes. Boating is a natural outdoor activity all across the country and here in the Greater Niagara Region of Western New York, it’s most appropriate because we are surrounded by water.
With two Great Lakes (Erie and Ontario), the Niagara River and the Erie Canal leading the way, boating is a perfect way to spend time outdoors with family and friends. However, with the fun comes a fair amount of responsibility. Boating education is extremely important – from how to operate your vessel to what to do in an emergency situation – and should all be part of your wheelhouse of knowledge before you start driving a boat around your local waters, no matter where you are.
While we can’t cover everything in one simple blog, we can certainly help point you in the right direction to help get you the education that you need. One way is through an organization called the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation based in Washington, D.C. This is their mission statement: “The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s (RBFF) mission is to increase participation in recreational angling and boating and thereby increase public awareness and appreciation of the need to protect, conserve and restore this nation’s aquatic natural resources.”
Yes, once you become a boater and/or a fisherman, you need to become a steward of these treasured natural resources and water is at the top of the list. Boating and fishing truly do go hand in hand. You may not need a boat to go fishing or you don’t have to fish if you have a boat, but combining the two can lead to spending so much more quality time with family and friends. It can also lead you down the path for outdoor adventures that can last a lifetime.
The RBFF is an excellent way to get started because there is so much information available on that particular website alone. You can get into the information that you need before you even select a boat, determining what boat might best meet your needs. From there you can get into boating basics, boating responsibly and places to boat – all key components for safety and responsibility when it comes to boats and boating.
In New York, a new boating education law was passed May 1, 2014 that requires any person born on or after May 1, 1996 to have a boating safety certificate to operate a motor boat. Approved courses are offered regularly by New York State Parks, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons. You must be at least 10 years of age to take the course. You must be at least 14 years of age to operate a vessel. That said, no matter what your age, if you have never operated a motor boat before, these courses are a good plan of attack to get yourself into the swing of things.
To find out more about boating in the state and to print out a copy of the New York State Boaters Guide, click over to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation at http://nysparks.com/recreation/boating/ and to find out when there will be a course in your area.
The link for classes is http://nysparks.com/recreation/boating/safety-courses.aspx?cnty=Niagara&sort=1.
In addition to the state parks, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary gives a vessel exam blitz that can help keep your boat current as far as safety requirements. The next vessel exam in Western New York will take place June 25 between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. at Youngstown at the Fort Niagara launch ramps. Contact John Roach at 716-751-2057 for more information. He also has similar exams on July 9 at Wilson-Tuscarora State Park and August 6 at the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott.
New Law on Invasive Species. As part of an aggressive effort to prevent invasive species from entering and damaging New York water bodies, the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) adopted new regulations earlier that require boaters to remove all visible plant and animal materials from boats, trailers and associated equipment, and to drain boats prior to launching from DEC lands.
The regulations, which are currently in effect, pertain to all DEC boat launches, fishing access sites and other DEC lands where watercraft such as boats, kayak or canoes, can be launched into the water. You should visibly inspect the water craft and remove any mud, vegetation or other organisms that might be clinging to it. In addition, you should drain any water from the vessel, such as from the bilge, live well or other holding tanks that might be in the boat. Drying the boat is also recommended. Again, it’s all part of being a responsible boat owner who is a steward of our natural resources.
4th of July Safety Tips
If you are out on a boat during the 4th of July holiday – a popular boating time – BoatUS has some safety tips to consider when on the water. For starters, be cognizant of the boat’s carrying capacity – don’t overload the boat with people! In addition, make sure that everyone on board has a personal flotation device or life jacket. The greatest chance for an accident is at night after the fireworks when everyone is heading back to the launch ramp or marina at the same time. Be careful out there! It’s not a bad idea to show a little patience and take your time returning to the launch ramp or marina.
If you are going to be boating at night, make sure all the lights are in working order. If you are a paddler with a kayak or canoe, steer clear of the main boating areas at night and make sure you have Coast Guard-approved navigation lights. Assume that no one can see you, which could very well be the case.
Another important consideration is to boat when you are sober – especially at night. You can face a Boating While Intoxicated charge and it’s an operator’s responsibility to keep everyone on board safe. Drunk driving on the water will have a negative impact on your driver’s license, too.
Share the Day Plan
Finally, before you head out on the water with any kind of a vessel, make sure you remain consistent with some type of a plan to let other people know where you will be going, who will be going and when you expect to return. Keep it simple and to the point. Even if you are at the launch ramp, leave a little note on your windshield with the details of where you are going and when you expect to return.
It’s better to be safe!