Summer 2018 is here in all its glory. Along with the season of family, friends and fun come all the things that make this time of year on the Island so memorable. And along with the joys of summer come associated dangers, on land and on water.
Boating is at the top of the list of summer pleasures that can turn tragic.
In 2017, the U.S. Coast Guard counted 4,291 accidents that involved recreational boating, with 658 deaths, 2,629 injuries and approximately $46 million of damage to property. Where cause of death was known, the Coast Guard reported that 76 percent of those who died in boating accidents drowned.
And 85 percent of the drowning victims were not wearing life jackets.
Alcohol accounted for almost 20 percent of the fatalities on the water last year.
A lesson to be repeated is what the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary taught when it marked National Safe Boating Week in May, using the occasion to promote the use of life jackets every time people step aboard boats and head out on the bay, the ocean or the Sound.
Most of us who are on boats in the summer have probably seen vessels with far too many people aboard — in some cases including very young children. We should remember July 4, 2012 when, in Oyster Bay, a 34-foot vessel loaded with 27 people out to watch the fireworks capsized, killing three children: a 12-year-old boy and two girls, ages 8 and 11.
Overcrowding was later determined to be a factor in the boat’s overturning. One person familiar with the boat said it could safely carry only eight passengers. On a night of celebration and fireworks, this boat carried more than three times that limit.
That should be a cautionary tale for anyone going out for a cruise under the sun or stars.
We count on the ever-vigilant efforts of Shelter Island Police Department’s marine patrols and bay constables to keep boaters safe, as officers on land do every day. But all of us have to do our part.
We are a small island surrounded by water. We should enjoy the blessings of our location. But we also have to respect the water, and be smart.