Boating? Here’s an update on the latest laws for the season


boat camp 1As the days grow longer and warmer, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is once more sharing the most recent changes made to Connecticut’s boating and harbor laws to ensure that families stay safe on the water.

Those who are operating a paddle craft will be required to wear life jackets starting in October. Currently, “you don’t have to wear the life vest, but it needs to be at least strapped down and accessible, and that’s been a hot debate going back and forth. It’s been brought up to the Coast Guard to be addressed. But as of now, you need to have a life jacket with you. And as far as my understanding is, that law’s been enforced for the past couple of years,” said Officer Derek Mulcahy of the Marine Division of the Darien Police Department.

“The law that is new is Emily’s Law, which started in October of last year. What that means is that for anyone who is towing a waterskier, wake boarder, tuber, or anything like that, the operator of the boat needs to be at least 16 years old,” explained Officer Mulcahy.

Emily’s Law was named after Emily Fedorko, a Greenwich teen who lost her life in a tragic tubing accident two summers ago.

In order to increase awareness of her story and prevent other tragedies from occurring, boating classes now must dedicate time to go over water skiing protocol. On any new boating license, there is an endorsement that shows whether an individual has passed that mandatory course. According to Officer Mulcahy and the 2016 Connecticut Boater’s Guide, anyone who has had their boating license prior to the passage of Emily’s Law will be grandfathered in.

The reactions to these changes from the boating communities in Darien and local towns have been positive, even though it is still fairly early in the boating season this year. “Parents generally think [Emily’s Law] is a great idea. If you’re thirteen years old and you have a boating license, you can operate any sized boat you want, which sounds crazy. The main concern is that when a person is coming back to the boat, if the boat is even slightly in gear, the propellers are going to be turning. If someone is a little older with more boating experience, ultimately that could help avoid some unnecessary tragedies in the future,” explained Officer Mulcahy.

When asked about what other advice the Darien Police Department would recommend in order to ensure safety on the water, especially as the summer progresses, Officer Mulcahy immediately mentioned that “we stress that you need to have a least one life jacket per person that is the correct type. We see a lot of people going out with an insufficient number of life jackets and that’s not acceptable.”

He also warned against the natural tendency to surpass the carrying capacity of boats, citing that “if there are too many people on board, the boat’s not going to handle the way it’s designed to. Maybe the front of it is too low in the water and a wave comes over it, making it completely unstable and dangerous.”

For more information, please visit http://www.ct.gov/deep to check out the Connecticut Boater’s Guide.

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