Along with this season of family, friends and fun come all the other things that make this time of year on the Island so memorable. And yet with the joys of summer come associated dangers.
Boating is at the top of the list of summer pleasures that can turn tragic.
In the latest available statistics provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2020 there were 5,265 recreational boating accidents, which killed 767 people. Close to 3,200 people were injured.
Alcohol accounted for almost 18% of those accidents on the water last year. The Coast Guard found that 75% of the fatalities were caused by drowning, and the sad and sobering statistic that 86% of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
And another striking statistic: Only 12% of deaths in boating accidents occurred on vessels where the operator had not received a nationally-approved boating safety education certificate.
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 never forget 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.
We count on the ever-vigilant efforts of Shelter Island Police Department’s marine patrols and bay constables who keep boaters safe, as officers on land do every day. But all of us have to do our part.
The National Safe Boating Council recommends these words to live by:
• Never boat under the influence.
• Take a boating safety course.
• Check equipment. Schedule a free vessel safety check with local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons.
• Wear a life jacket. Make sure everyone wears a life jacket — every time.
• Use an engine cut-off device — it’s the law.
An engine cut-off device is a proven safety device to stop the boat’s engine if the operator falls overboard.
• Keep a weather eye out. Always check the forecast before departing and during the trip.
• Know what’s going on around you at all times. Nearly a quarter of all reported boating accidents are caused by operator inattention or improper lookout.
• Know where you’re going and travel at safe speeds.
• Keep in touch. Have more than one communication device that works when wet.
• For more go to: safeboatingcampaign.com. 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.