Hudson River Roundtable: Boater Safety a Concern

With boat season a mere five months from now, it’s imperative that safety measures be taken during construction. More signage and markers are needed in the channel, and on the shore, and how to inform the public, especially new boaters?

safe boating

That’s my takeaway from the productive Wednesday night discussion among New York Assembly members, Westchester and Rockland marine law enforcement, marina owners, boat club officials and project officials.

“It’s your responsibility to be careful, and you have to know the rules of the road,” LCDR Donna Leoce said. Hudson Valley Marine Trades Association President Gabe Capobianchi, and Hudson River Boat & Yacht Club Association (HRBYCA) Inc. President Frank Bergman, said each season brings new boaters, and not all know the rules; Capobianchi also cited the lack of police presence in the evening.

The Regulated Navigation Area (RNA) — established September 15 by the U.S. Coast Guard for the navigable Hudson River waters surrounding the Tappan Zee Bridge — will be enforced until December 31, 2018. Comments and related material pertaining to the RNA will be accepted and reviewed by the Coast Guard through December 31, 2018.

Chart details the recently-installed navigational lighting; see http://wp.me/p3ncNt-I9.

Chart details the recently-installed navigational lighting; see http://wp.me/p3ncNt-I9.

The RNA is an advisement, and boaters who don’t comply will receive warnings. “We’re regulating the speed and no-wake zone, meaning recreational boaters cannot go more than five knots (5.8 miles per hour),” Leoce explained. Commercial vessels cannot be held to that requirement since some need more speed for movement. “It’s safest to stay in the middle of the channel.”

Note: Since September 11, 2001, a federal safety/security standoff for the bridge requires boaters to stay 25 yards from abutments and piers.

Westchester County police department marine unit commander Lt. James Luciano maintained for months that marinas have to post more signs since the river is wide near the bridge. Since 1999, police have been patrolling the eastern 43-mile area from the Bronx border to just north of the Bear Mountain Bridge. Rockland County and Putnam County Sheriffs, in addition to the Coast Guard, also have law enforcement power along the river.

Construction machinery near the westbound span of the Tappan Zee Bridge/Courtesy of Blair Johnson

Construction machinery near the westbound span of the Tappan Zee Bridge/Courtesy of Blair Johnson

There are basic tenets,” Leoce said. “How can I get out of its way if it can’t get out of mine?” I think she was trying to say, If another boater and I are on the same course, and that boater cannot move, how can I avert it? (Much like safety on the road; if two cars are going to collide, can one of them drive into the grass to avert that collision?)

Restricted visibility at night prompted questions about why all parts of all the barges, and any parts that protrude, and on pylons, don’t have lights (again, like a highway construction area). Leoce said it’s up to the public to be informed. Special project advisor Brian Conybeare said new signage will, hopefully, be in place by next spring.

One suggestion was to place buoys (chained to one another) along the perimeters so boaters know where to transit.

State Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (92nd AD), whose district includes Tarrytown, said when there’s an accident in the river, every jurisdiction comes to help. He suggested a countywide effort to organize and train personnel.

Luciano used the analogy of a highway — no matter how many officers are on the road, some people will still speed. “Vessels need to transit the area carefully, and be aware of their surroundings,” he said. “Education, making people aware of obstacles in the river, and advising them to stay in the shipping channel” are key.

For more information, contact the New NY Bridge hotline at 1-855-TZBRIDGE (1-855-892-7434), or email tzb.info@thruway.ny.gov. The county’s Boating Safety page can be found at: http://publicsafety.westchestergov.com/marine-unit/boating-safety.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2013

3 comments so far

  1. […] Coast Guard signs off on a Private Aids to Navigation permit, discussed at last October’s boater safety roundtable. The owners of two marinas, Piermont Mayor Chris Sanders, Asst. Fire Chief Dan Goswick, and others, […]

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  2. […] I often write about the Outreach Team informing the public of boating restrictions and the new enhanced safety measures near the bridge that encompass suggestions from last October’s Hudson River roundtable. […]

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  3. […] The U.S. Coast Guard recently approved a request from project officials to establish a safety zone, to be marked with buoys, around the construction area, which was discussed last fall during a boater safety roundtable. […]

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