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Boaters should check their craft, the law

FINGER LAKES—Like the “rules of the road,” there are many rules for going out boating.
Laws cover everything from life jackets, to speed limits, to registration and certification, just as it is on roadways. Information on the laws, as well as tips to safer boating, can be learned from the state or sheriff’s departments. Sheriff’s offices regularly hold boater safety courses for boater certification, usually between January and August. Sheriff’s officer George Hanville said many people attend the courses to get the certification required to operate personal water craft.
Schuyler Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Centurelli said a lot of safe boating comes down to common sense. He explained there are different rules for boats of different lengths, power source, as well as by people’s ages.
“Every vessel has to have one personal flotation device (PFD) per person,” explained Centurelli. He added children under the age of 12 must be wearing a securely fastened PFD if on a boat under 65 feet long. The exception to this is if the child is within a fully enclosed cabin. Hanville emphasized that each PFD has to fit the person well, and not be too big or too loose.
PFDs must be worn by everyone on and being towed behind a personal water craft, like a jet ski. Operators of personal water craft must complete an eight hour course (like the ones done by the sheriff’s department) and have the certificate on board the craft. The minimum age to operate such a craft is 14 years old. Anyone under 14 can operate a personal water craft, but only with someone certified and at least 18 years old.
Hanville said when a boat is in motion, everyone on board must be seated, and not on the side of the boat. He added that boaters should not exceed the capacity for the boat, by checking the capacity plate.
Centurelli said boats over 16 feet in length need to have handheld signaling devices, such as flares. Boats that same size and mechanically powered also need an anchor. He added, any boat mechanically powered has to be registered, even if it’s a rowboat with a motor.
When it comes to motors, there is also safety to consider when it comes to gasoline. Centurelli said if the gas tank is sitting in the open, no fire extinguisher is necessary. However, if gas containers are kept in places where fumes can accumulate, like under seats, then a fire extinguisher must be on board.
Additional suggested equipment to bring onto a boat includes a first aid kit, tool kit, bilge pump/bailer, boat hook, oar/paddle, compass, marine radio and spare parts. However, whatever is taken out onto the lake, Hanville added that it cannot be dumped. He explained it is illegal.
He added that when going out boating, boaters should make a note of where they are going, when they expect to be back, and who all is on the boat. Hanville explained this is best for groups of younger boaters going out onto the lake.
Also like driving, drinking and boating is unsafe.
“If you want to drink, don’t operate a boat,” said Centurelli about another aspect that should be common sense. He explained the waves and sun beating down on someone, can intensify the effects of alcohol.
Power driven vessels in motion must give right of way to boats not under command, restricted in maneuverability, sail boats, and vessels engaged in fishing. According to the state, fishing does not include while trolling lines or other apparatus that do not restrict maneuverability. Sailing vessels must then in turn give right of way to boats not under command, with restricted movement, and those engaged in fishing. Boats that are fishing must give right of way to other vessels with limited maneuverability and those not under command.
Centurelli said Seneca Lake doesn’t have a speed limit, except for within 100 feet of the shore or docks, which is five miles per hour. He said different lakes have different limits, so boaters should double check before going out onto a new lake. For instance, Centurelli said on Waneta and Lamoka Lakes, the speed limit is five miles per hour within 200 feet of the shore.
Hanville added that the speed limit for Keuka and Canandaigua Lakes is also five miles per hour within 200 feet of shore and docks. He added that for both lakes, the day speed limit is 45 miles per hour and the night speed limit is 25 miles per hour.
Hanville explained that if a boater is within 200 feet of the shore or dock, and is going fast enough to create a wake, the boater is responsible for any damage caused. That includes if the wake makes a docked boat slam against its dock.
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