Boat safety proposal floated by pols

Local reaction has been mixed to a proposed law that would require all boaters to obtain a safety certificate before operating a motorized boat.

“I’ve said it a hundred times: You can’t legislate common sense,” Broadalbin Supervisor Joseph DiGiacomo – who is opposed to the bill – said.

However, David Dickey, co-owner of Park Marine Base in Northville, said he believes the law is a good idea.

“A boat is a far more dangerous motor vehicle than a car,” Dickey said.

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, D-Ossining, and state Sen. David Carlucci, D-Rockland/Westchester, have both sponsored bills that would require “all mechanically propelled vessel operators to obtain a safety certificate by completing an eight-hour safe boating course,” a news release said.

The legislation aims to eliminate the dangers of boating often attributed to inexperience by requiring boat operators to take a course and become aware of all aspects of operating a boat, the release said. The requirements would be implemented over several years, the release said, with the first phase beginning in 2014 with 18-year-olds.

“Some boat operators do not understand the possible damage that can result from slight inaccuracies in operation when navigating in highly trafficked or tricky waterways,” Galef said in the release. “This ignorance of the rules of operation cannot be tolerated in the face of dangerous and all-too-often fatal accidents.”

Local boaters and marina owners agree knowing proper safety measures on a boat is important, but some disagree on whether it should be a law.

DiGiacomo, a boater, said the law would not stop people from going out and disobeying the rules on the water.

“Anybody who is responsible would want to get on their boat and be safe,” DiGiacomo said.

Dickey said the operator of the boat should know all the safety rules before taking it out on the water. While drivers in cars have signs, speed limits and traffic signals to help watch for, Dickey said, a boat has only a few buoys out on a lake and no hazard markings.

Lauren McMurray, owner of McMurray’s in Broadalbin, said while older boaters may consider it an inconvenience, he has seen younger boaters who are a danger.

“I have seen kids who really should have [taken a safety course.] They have no clue what they are doing and they are actually a hazard,” McMurray said.

However, McMurray said, older boaters may find a new training course offensive and unnecessary.

Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, said the law was debated last month in the Assembly, with many representatives from regions of the state that rely on tourism concerned about the bill affecting marinas.

Butler said out-of-state tourists would not have to follow the regulation, and said the bill was legislating against the wrong group.

“In my mind, [out-of-state tourists] would be the people who need it the most,” Butler said.

Joseph Michalek, owner of Cranberry Cove Marina, said he feels the proposed law would not affect his business. Michalek said boaters would take the courses, especially if they put more time and money into their boats.

“[Boaters] might not be happy about it, but they [would] take it,” Michalek said.

State Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Niskayuna, said he is opposed to the bill.

“I could not vote for that bill in its current form,” Farley said.

Farley said constituents of his have protested the bill, with marina owners and boaters particularly concerned about the proposed legislation.

Farley said he hopes the bill will not go before the state Senate.

“I think I am very hopeful the bill won’t see the light of day as it is,” Farley said.