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Boating safety focus of task force
By ALAN RAPPEPORT Staff Writer, (609) 272-7219

TRENTON - The Assembly Task Force on Waterway Safety issued new recommendations Thursday to help improve boating safety on New Jersey waterways.

Increased boating accidents and fatalities brought a panel, chaired by Assemblyman Robert J. Smith, D-Gloucester, to suggest the possibility of a mandatory boater's license, improved boating-safety education, and more resources dedicated to marine law enforcement.

"It is apparent that more steps are needed to ensure the safety of boaters," Smith said.

Smith sponsored the legislations along with Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, in Sept. 2002, creating the task force.

"We have to get the word out to New Jerseyans that recreational boating is not child's play," Van Drew said.

Some of the recommendations include increasing boat accident reports, requiring a mandatory boating course, increasing education requirements for boat safety instructors, increasing marine patrol funds and allowing the Boat Regulation Commission to continue determining speed limits.

The task force is working to draft laws to put the recommendations in affect

2,713 Posts
Steve ,

Here is an article that was printed in 1999, but as all of us know between then and now there are many many more boats on the water .... everyone please read::


By Mike Diamond
and John Froonjian

Special Reports, 272-7227

The McGowan brothers, Robert and Edward, had stopped fishing and were powering back through Beach Thorofare when their Memorial Day boat trip turned deadly.

It was past lunchtime. Edward, a Longport real-estate agent, was piloting their 23-foot boat, breaking in a new engine on the "Princess Grace." After 30 years of boating, Edward would later say, he felt confident navigating the bay waters off Margate.

The boat was scudding through the thorofare's northern part, close to Intracoastal Waterway marker 222, when the Princess Grace plowed into a sandbar.

Edward, 53, and Robert, a 55-year-old Pennsylvania resident, hurtled forward upon impact. Edward hurt his back; his face was also cut. Robert was not as lucky. His head struck the bow of the boat.

He died before a Coast Guard crew reached the boat.

Two weeks later, Edward McGowan found it difficult to discuss the accident.

"That's a new sandbar that developed out there," he said. "There's no way I would have been going that fast if I had any suspicion that a sandbar had formed."

The boating tragedy wasn't the state's first this year. Three others have died on New Jersey waterways -- all before summer even started. Ten people died in boating accidents in the state last year.

New Jersey waters are among the nation's most dangerous for boating, a Press of Atlantic City analysis of boat-accident statistics shows.

New Jersey is right in the middle among the states in number of registered boats. But it has the 7th-highest number of reported recreational boat accidents, the most recent statistics show. The state also has the 8th-highest number of boating injuries nationally.

Those figures would be much higher if New Jersey had a year-round boating season.

Boating-safety experts agreed that the surge in use of personal watercraft -- the small, speedy boat touted as the motorcycle of the sea -- poses a major new hazard on the bays, rivers and ocean.

"People play with them like they're toys, and they're not," said Gil Finkelstein of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. "They're boats."

The number of personal watercraft, or PWCs, in New Jersey has more than quadrupled since authorities estimated there were 4,277 in 1991. The Press, which analyzed four years of U.S. Coast Guard accident statistics, found that while personal watercraft account for only 10 percent of all boats, they are involved in one-third of the state's boat accidents.

The good news: Although New Jersey boat accidents are high, the numbers are improving. Unfortunately, the percentage of those accidents causing injuries is on the rise.

Marine authorities, including New Jersey State Trooper Thomas Bibby, emphasized that accidents are rare considering the huge number of boats on the state's waterways. Most happen on weekends, Bibby said, and most are due to carelessness and mental errors. Boating is generally safe, he said.

Lt. Rich Condit, commanding officer of Coast Guard operations based in Atlantic City, agreed. He joined a crew out of Station Great Egg in Ocean City on a recent Saturday as it patrolled area waters.

Condit, admiring the expensive boats moored on the lagoon as the Coast Guard boat left port, said he understood the lure of the water.

"People dream of having a boat. And most of us share that dream," Condit said. "That's why we joined the Coast Guard. We're here because we love to work on the water.

"Of course, we see the dangers of being on the water first-hand," he said.

Last year, there were 223 noncommercial New Jersey boat accidents in which at least $500 in damage or injuries resulted. Those accidents resulted in 126 injuries, the average number for the last four years.

A peek at the contents of the safety vests worn by Coast Guard officers shows the respect they hold for the sea's potential dangers.

Petty Officer Hank Korker pulled daytime flares from one pocket, night flares from another, a whistle, a signaling mirror and a flashing strobe light from other pouches -- "all things to help us if we end up in the water," Korker said.

Condit said pleasure boaters should be just as prepared. The Coast Guard spot-checks boats for required safety equipment, and issues tickets to those who fail the random inspections.

On the recent Saturday, the Coast Guard boat -- a 21-footer driven by two 70-horsepower engines and rimmed with protective foam rubber -- was greeted warmly as officers prepared to board a motorboat in Beach Thorofare off Margate.

"I'm glad you're out here," said Ed Trotter, a Philadelphian staying at a Mays Landing campground. Trotter produced various items -- flares, life jackets, a fire extinguisher -- as Korker called off a list.

"I think we can minimize accidents by making sure everyone has all the safety gear that's required," Condit said.

The talk turned solemn a few minutes later, when the patrol cruised past the spot where the McGowan accident occurred. The crew from Ocean City had responded to that call. Beach Thorofare, with its weekend crowds, was the site of 10 accidents in the years 1996-98.

The waters surrounding Ocean City are even more hazardous. Other high-accident zones include the waters near Wildwood and the northern area of Barnegat Bay. (See accompanying map.)

Condit bemoaned the general lack of safety training among boaters. He noted that the Coast Guard Auxiliary, a volunteer organization, provides education courses and does courtesy safety inspections of boats for free.

He said any adult who can afford a boat can immediately drive it out to sea with no training.

The Press analysis showed that sixty-four percent of boat operators involved in accidents from 1996 through 1998 had no formal boat-safety training. In 1995, the year before state education requirements for PWC operators and children took effect, 84 percent had no training.

State Trooper Bibby believes education produces safer boating. He attributed the recent decline in accidents to the new education.

Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1978 -- that is, anyone 20 years old and younger -- must take a boating-safety course before they can operate a powerboat. All personal watercraft operators must take an eight-hour boating safety course regardless of their birth date.

Those who rent PWCs are supposed to receive detailed safety instructions from rental businesses. For example, they should be told to turn right when heading directly toward another vessel and that they won't be able to turn if they release the throttle. (An informal Press survey found six of eight area PWC rental outfits did not provide the required training to renters. See accompanying article.)

Forty percent of PWC accidents involve rented boats.

One such accident occurred a year ago in the waters off Ocean City when Bret Talley, a 16- year-old riding a PWC for the first time, collided with experienced operator Robert Barlow, 21.

Barlow, of Havertown, Pa., said he was traveling fast when he noticed the other PWC coming upon him.

"It was pretty scary," he said. "I was waving at him, yelling at him to stop. Next thing I knew, he rammed me and I was in the water."

Barlow and Talley, of Orefield, Pa., sustained minor injuries. Wahoo Waverunners, the Ocean City rental business, provided little training, both young men said. The outfit is now out of business.

The 1996 boat-safety law that required PWC training will, over years, result in all boaters being educated. But some safety experts claim more is needed to prepare older boaters to navigate increasingly congested waters.

The Press analysis showed that only 18 percent of New Jersey boat accidents in 1995-98 involved operators younger than 21. A larger percentage of accidents involved boaters aged 21-30 (25 percent) and 31-40 (21 percent). Boaters older than 40 accounted for 36 percent of accidents.

"It's going to take some time for that law to kick in, but all those people currently on the water should be educated," said Capt. Matt Miser of Nautical Know How Inc., a Florida company that teaches boating safety over the Internet.

"Most accidents are caused by the 26-52 age group, so they're educating the wrong people," he said.

Safety experts uniformly applauded requirements that PWC operators take the eight-hour boating safety course. But Lloyd Pritz of Linwood, who has owned a PWC for the past five years, said the course should focus on the unique characteristics of a PWC.

"Someone could buy a Waverunner, pass the course and still not know anything about how to properly operate a Waverunner," he said.

The Press analysis also shows that personal watercraft -- manufactured under trade names including Jet Ski, Waverunner and SeaDoo -- were 3.5 times more likely to be involved in an accident than other kinds of boats. And nearly 60 percent of those PWC accidents resulted in injuries.

John Ryan, owner of Shamrock Marine Towing and Salvage, said he thinks areas where more personal watercraft operate, like Corson's Inlet, are potentially the most hazardous.

"They (personal watercraft) are so quick and easy to maneuver, and you might not realize another boat is right behind you," Ryan said.

"It's a high-speed, small vessel with no protection," Finkelstein added. "You're going so fast that you don't have time to look to the side or see what's behind you."

Boaters worry about personal watercraft operators trying to "jump" the wake left behind larger boats. Trooper Bibby said the maneuver is legal as long as the PWC is at least 100 feet behind the larger boat. But he and Coast Guard Lt. Condit said wake-jumping is not recommended.

There's a tendency to try to get closer to the boat, where the wake is larger -- as are the chances of hitting the boat and suffering a propeller injury, they said. Also, a PWC operator may cross a wake into the path of an oncoming boat that was obscured by the vessel creating the wake.

Ten people have been killed in PWC accidents in New Jersey this decade.

However, Condit said, relatively few PWC operators drown. That's because all PWC operators have to wear life jackets.

Drownings would significantly decrease if all boaters wore the flotation equipment, Condit said. But on the recent Coast Guard patrol of Beach Thorofare, almost no boaters wore them.

The importance of life jackets was underscored in a Sept. 30, 1998, accident in the Delaware Bay off Downe Township, Cumberland County. A motorboat sank after taking on water. The boaters put on life jackets, but one individual was unable to fasten the jacket around his large girth, a State Police accident report said. The man died.

published 6/27/99

[ 02-13-2004, 10:54 AM: Message edited by: canyon caster ]

147 Posts
What are those boobs (opps, I mean legislaters) talking about? Don't we already have mandatory boater education with an exam being phased in for everybody? I know we also have a mandatory boating license for non-tidal waters. Here we go again - more feel-good laws that are nothing more than an inconvience for most of us. I know those nasty old boats killed 10 people and injured 123 last year! SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! Make everybody get a license and pay a fee so the politicians' friends can make more money to get a safer (bigger) boat.


I know the deaths and accidents are a misery for those involved and they have my sympathy. But this is hardly something that needs the imposition of government restrictions on everyone. Bathtubs kill and injure many, many more, but there are no laws or licenses to use one of them. Unless, you happen to take it out on the bay.

2,713 Posts

You have an excellent point!!! The state Marine Police do not have enough people to man the entire coastline ....or proper equiptment , with all the terror talks going on the Coast guard has other more important things to do... but they will be there in a serious matter .. Nor does the State have enough man power(Conservation Officers) to enforce the size limits ....

You are absolutley right about maintaining the Channel markers ... I notice in some back bay areas the channel markers are just long tree branches with a marker on top... Believe it or not there are Yahoos out there that pull out these markers and place them in shallow water to be funny and for people who are not familiar with the area run their boat (like they are supposed to ) between the markers thinking they are in the channel as it's marked than WHAM.... hit a sand bar ...then people get hurt ... or could be killed A better bouy sysetem in the waters would be the way to go...

Just look at North Wildwood (Hareford Inlet) that is loaded with sand bars.... why doesn't the state do something about that ..? Pretty soon you will be able to walk the beach from North Wild wood to Stone Harbor, there is alot going on that the state is turning their head on ... :mad: 6yrs ago you had water crashing in the parking lot behind Moores Inlet, now you have nothing but beach (500yds until you hit water ... that's a hell of alot of erosion in one area in a short period of time would n't you say? I feel sorry for the boat owners in that area they have to travel out of stone Harbor to Gain Acess to the Ocean, even that ride is too risky loaded with sandbars, no navigation bouys , you wouldn't know where a sand bar is until you hit one .... just my opinion...

5,270 Posts
BB- Mandatory education is only required for all PWC operators and young boat operators between 13 and born after Jan 1 1979
Non-tidal boat license is a user fee or tax.
BOater education has not passed yet except as above.

CC - Hereford is a closed inlet. Has been for many years. So is Corsons and Brigatine.

Those markers on sticks with triangles and squares are private aids put in by the locals.

State markers are those little rubber ones about 2 ft tall that arent on the charts.

[ 02-14-2004, 08:17 AM: Message edited by: High Wire ]

7,570 Posts
A couple of points....

1. Education IS important but probably wouldn't have saved most of the lives lost lately in our waters....look at drivers licensing and accidents....basic driving education doesn't stop 50000 highway deaths a year. Some of the big hoopla is about the kids death in wildwood and some of them DID have education recently.

2. The CG is only required to mark channels that have commercial or historical significance. They mark "best" water....not necessarily deep enough water for all boats. They cannot mark ALL harards in all boating areas as it would be an astronomical amount of buoys/markers.

3. The State does put in some of those "cedar tree" markers I think as I have seen one of their boats carrying them around in the spring. We all know that their reliability and durability as always suspect.

4. The State required us instructors to start emphasizing skipper responsibility last year in their course. I have always emphasized it based on my background. Unfortunately me saying something during a quickie class is not too much of a deterrent to unsafe has to be more widespread.

%. Before someone starts the bandwagon down the wrong's not an alcohol problem either...using vehicular statistics is way out of line when applied to boating. Been in a high level safety position and had to make the study of statistics second nature.

5. I always start every class with... its courtesy on the water mixed with a little prudence and your day on the water will go a lot better. It's what you don't know that's going to get you...probably not something you are familiar with.

6. Be safe out there!!!!!!!
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