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Sheriffs urge safety ahead of Memorial Day weekend kickoff to boating season

Boats at the Albany Yacht Club
Lucas Willard
/
WAMC
Boats at the Albany Yacht Club

New York state officials are asking boaters and floaters to stay safe on the water as the summer recreation season kicks off this weekend.

At the Albany Yacht Club in Rensselaer, with boats parked on the Hudson River across from the Albany skyline, the New York State Sheriffs’ Association urged the public to stay safe this Memorial Day weekend.

Craig DuMond is the Delaware County Sheriff and president of the sheriffs’ association. He said everyone on the water – including captains, passengers, and paddlers — should wear a life jacket.

“The U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of four out of every five recreational boating fatalities. 83% of those who drowned, were not wearing life jackets,” said DuMond.

Sheriffs from up and down the Hudson River offered safety tips. Juan Figueroa is the Ulster County Sheriff and also an avid boater. He had some advice for younger boaters.

“Remember that you're responsible for everyone that's on your vessel as your captain. Don't let anybody put pressure on you. Go check the weather, check the currents. Also, listen to your fellow boaters that are in the marinas who are more seasoned and may have advice for junior boaters. You know, I can't stress the weather enough because anything can happen out there at any given time if you're not paying attention to the weather and the currents,” said Figueroa.

Officials also marked the fifth anniversary of Brianna’s Law, a New York boating safety measure named after an 11-year-old girl who died in a 2005 boating accident.

The law requires all boaters 46 or younger this year to have a boating safety certificate. Beginning in January 2025, all motor boat operators regardless of age will need the safety certificate.

Alexi Howland is the Director of Marine Services and Recreational Vehicles at New York State PARKS. She also serves as New York's Boating Law Administrator.

“You can find these courses on our PARKS website and they're available both in person and online to increase accessibility. I understand some experienced boaters may feel that this is unnecessary. But I urge you to approach the course with an open mind and I guarantee you'll either learn something new or it will serve as a great refresher before the start of the season,” said Howland.

The officials noted that the boating season is already active after the mild winter. Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said it’s now several weeks into striper season on the Hudson and the waterway has been busy.

“Last weekend, there had to be 100 boats out here on the river and in between those boats are people with kayaks and rowing clubs. So, you know, there's a lot of activity out here. Be safe, please. We've had some horrible tragedies in the Capital District in the last several years. We want to prevent that from going happening again,” said Apple.

For more information, visit: safeboatingcampaign.com

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.