Caution, common sense urged while on area lakes
MAYVILLE — Those taking to area waterways this summer are being urged to use caution and common sense.
County Executive Vince Horrigan visited Chautauqua Marina in Mayville on Monday to stress the importance behind wearing a flotation device. It was his first feature to his 100 Days of Summer Safety Campaign. Horrigan was joined by Greg Paterniti and Robert Richter, navigational officers with the Sheriff’s Office; Sheriff Joe Gerace; and Ken Shearer, president of Chautauqua Marina.
“As a kid on Chautauqua Lake, boating is some of the fondest memories,” Horrigan said. “I’m also aware that common sense and safety goes hand-in-hand with boating.”
The call for flotation devices came just a day after three fishers were pulled from Chautauqua Lake by Bemus Point Fire Rescue crews and county navigational officers. Richter said the fishers’ 14-inch boat overturned due to high winds and waves. The three men were in approximately 18 feet of water off the Interstate 86 Overlook when a storm swept through and overturned their boat.
While flotation devices were in the vessel, which is required by law, Richter said they didn’t have them on and were clinging to the boat.
“We seem to be learning these lessons over and over again,” he said. “A majority of people we see do not have life jackets on. The lesson learned is wear the flotation device. That’s the most important thing you can do.”
Chautauqua County is home to a number of waterways and lakes, including Lake Erie, Findley Lake, Cassadaga Lake and Bear Lake. Gerace said safety is a huge issue each year with tragedy seen, and he said it’s all avoidable. Gerace said between one and two drownings occur every year.
“We’ve never recovered a body from the lake that had a life jacket on,” he said. “It’s those that think it won’t happen to them but it happens unexpectedly and it’s too late.”
Paterniti and Richter have been with the department for more than 30 years. Paterniti said another issue seen patrolling Chautauqua Lake is drinking.
“We want people to have a good time, but know you’re limitations,” he said.
Along with boats, those on kayaks, canoes and paddle boats are also urged to wear flotation devices. Richter said they’re seeing an increase in kayak activity. Just like boaters, kayakers must be equipped with life jackets as well.
“When the wind kicks up, and if they don’t have their life jacket, they have a tough time getting in their kayak,” he said. “Our greatest concern as of late has been the canoes and kayaks.”
Ensuring proper maintenance of a vessel is another vital aspect to enjoying a summer boat ride on the lake.
“Whether it’s replacing a propeller every year or if you’re not sure what kind of equipment you need on your boat, that’s what (Chautauqua Marina is) here for,” Shearer said.
Boat safety courses are offered by New York state. Individuals between 10 and 18 must go through the course to operate a mechanically-propelled vessel. Those under the age of 14 are required to have the class to operate any watercraft.
A class is being held today at Chautauqua Marina from 5-9 p.m. and Wednesday from 5-9 p.m.
“People have to get out and enjoy the water while thinking safety,” Gerace said. “It’s equipping their vessels properly and not overestimating their capability to swim.”