2015-07-16 / Opinion

Boaters Take Heed–Use Caution in Harbor

We have never been bashful about suggesting ways to make roadways in and around Newport safer for motorists and pedestrians alike.

And now, with summer fully upon us, we’d like to raise some similar— but different—concerns about boating safety.

This time of year, from Newport’s inner harbor to the shores of Fort Adams and beyond, the water is crowded with hundreds of sailboats, motorboats, fishing boats, cruise ships, cargo haulers, skiffs, catamarans, kayaks and canoes.

If you thought that central roadways such as America’s Cup and Bellevue avenues, Spring Street and Broadway are choked with traffic this time of year, you should see the waterways mentioned above.

We were pleased to see on Saturday, July 11, that a U.S. Coast Guard boat out of Castle Hill station was busy most of the day stopping all sorts of boats to inspect for life preservers and other flotation devices, and to ensure that vessel operators were secure, seated, sober—and not speeding.

Do not take the last-mentioned concern lightly.

On July 11, there were so many boats afloat that some inevitably were, well, just going too fast to ensure safety for all. We were told by another concerned citizen that on Saturday, July 4, while enjoying one of the city’s harbor cruise excursions, numerous boats of all sizes seemed to be going too fast and creating large wakes that rocked the cruise ship to a far greater degree than was comfortable or safe.

Boat operators, listen up! The waters in the harbor are wake-free until you get past the buoys. No exceptions. If your boat is large and powerful, be ever mindful of smaller vessels so that you don’t, literally, blow them out of the water.

And for obvious reasons, all vessels need to carry life jackets, other flotation devices, horns, emergency first-aid kits, flares, radios and, if possible, emergency lights and other safety devices for night sailing.

Don’t allow more people on board your boat than the vessel was made for. And don’t bring along too many bottles of anything except drinking water.

The Coast Guard’s role in all this is vital—and pretty simple to comprehend: to safeguard “the lives and safety of its citizens.” The Coast Guard’s very presence in our waters helps to avoid collisions and other mishaps.

Now, if for some reason you are a boater who thinks all of these safety admonitions do not pertain to you, think again. The Coast Guard does more than simply respond to maritime accidents and emergencies. It also is charged with investigating causes of such occurrences. Routine inspections, as described earlier, may uncover a serious risk to boaters themselves or to those around them.

Concerned boaters are people who realize that exercising caution during these busy boating months is not something that’s done to avoid ticketing. Rather, it’s done to prevent summer ocean mishaps or, even worse, tragedies.

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