NORWALK, Conn. – Boats along Long Island Sound have been going into the water since early last month. As thoughts turn to enjoying the fun and fishing comes with boating, area experts suggest taking safety precautions before heading out onto the open waterways.
Robert Daraio, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary who has participated in search and rescue missions on the Hudson, Long Island Sound and New York Harbor, offers the basics for boat safety.
Daraio suggest that boaters "always wear a lifejacket, don't drink alcohol while boating, take a boating safety course, get a free vessel safety check from the Coast Guard Auxiliary to make sure you have the proper safety gear and file a Float Plan for every trip."
Both New York State and the State of Connecticut recommend boaters take certified safety courses. Safe Boating America's website is a prime source for boating safety, education, certification and Captain's licensing in New York and Connecticut .
The Norwalk police Marine Unit, located on Water Street, responds to more than 250 assistance calls annually and makes more than 100 arrests for water-related and other infractions, police said. Additionally, the division issues numerous warnings – written and verbal – to boaters.
In Darien, the 300-plus member Sail and Power Squadron offers basic boating and other courses from the harbor, as does its counterpart, the Norwalk Sail and Power Squadron.
Tom Bell, Darien's Harbor Master, said there are some tricky areas in the coves and close to the shore along lower Fairfield County's waterways, and he suggests that boaters have working fire extinguishers, emergency flares and radios or cell phones on board at all times.
"Please be courteous to your fellow boaters," said Bell. Slow down in harbors and obey the 'No Wake Zone' warnings. Don't operate a boat under the the influence."
Connecticut boaters are required to register all boats with a motor, boats that are 19 feet 6 inches or longer and personal watercraft, including jet skis, with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in Connecticut and New York offer free vessel inspections help boat owners meet this goal.
Boaters are also advised to check local weather forecasts for marine-related information prior to departure.
Children under the age of 12 must wear a Personal Flotation Device when aboard a boat of less than 65 feet in length. A PFD must be available for every person on board, including in kayaks, canoes and rowboats.
It is estimated that 70 percent of all boating-related fatalities could be prevented if PFDs were more fully used.
In its mission statement, the Darien Marine Unit echoes that sentiment.
"The mission of the Darien Police Department Marine Division is to reduce and prevent watercraft related accidents and injuries and to preserve the quality boating experience enjoyed by those who frequent the waters of Long Island Sound. Our mission is accomplished in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard and surrounding agencies by promoting watercraft safety and personal responsibility."
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