MAYS LANDING — Firefighters and community members underwent boat safety training Sunday as the Mays Landing Fire Department prepares to outfit a new rescue boat.
Chief Dave Connelly said his volunteers needed to obtain certification before operating the 18-foot-long former police patrol boat, which was acquired from Hamilton Township last May.
“I can’t use it until I get enough people certified and the boat’s equipped,” he said.
Once it’s outfitted with hoses, a water pump and other rescue equipment, Connelly said the boat will replace the department’s smaller inflatable vessel.
While the department isn’t frequently called upon for water rescues, he said the boat will come in handy.
“We do get calls from other towns who have to bring in boats from farther away and every weekend there’s usually eight to 10 boats on the (lake) with barbecue grills,” he said. “If something happens, all we could do is stand and watch from the shore.”
Fire Capt. George Samuelsen, 41, of Mays Landing, was one of the firefighters who went through the day-long training.
“There’s a lot of stuff the township does on the water, like the triathlon and the boat races in September,” he said. “Having a boat could come in handy.”
The training was also open to the public. Connelly said about half of the nearly 40 attendees were members of the community seeking state and national certification.
Janet Teller, who runs the Maywood, Bergen County-based NJ Boating Safety Classes, said the course teaches students basic seamanship, regulations and safety procedures. They receive certification both through the state and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.
“With national certification, they can boat in other states as a New Jersey resident without sitting in the other state’s course,” she said.
A member of the U.S. Coast Guard for 20 years, Teller said many people fail to comprehend the dangers inherent in boating.
“I’ve seen people die because they didn’t have a clue what they were getting themselves into until it was too late,” she said.
One of the most harrowing cases was a group of kids who let their dingy float up next to a yacht during a fireworks display. When the display was over and the vessel’s engines started up again, the three children were sucked into the propeller.
“We spent all night from midnight to 7 a.m. searching and we couldn’t find them,” she said. “They came up on the docks three days later.”
While it’s common for boaters to head out with a cooler of alcohol, that’s one of the worst things a person can do on the water, Teller said.
It’s also now illegal.
“People still think it’s a time to crack open a beer, drink with friends and go fishing,” she said. “If you got caught, that goes on your New Jersey driver’s license now.”
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