Boating accidents on New York waters claimed the lives of 27 people in 2014 -- up sharply from 18 fatalities the previous year, according to a state report.

The rise in boating deaths ended a three-year decline, according to the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which released the report Wednesday.

Deadly accidents increased in 2014 even though the number of registered boats statewide declined from 456,909 in 2013 to 449,489 last year.

There were 6.01 fatalities per 100,000 registered boats, the highest ratio in more than a decade, according to the report. There were 3.94 fatalities per 100,000 boats in 2013.

Many of the drowning deaths were easily preventable. Nearly 74 percent of the people who died from 2005 to 2014 were not wearing personal flotation devices, the report said.

"If we could just get people in life jackets," said Brian Kempf of the State Parks Marine Services Bureau.

Four boaters died in Nassau County last year; Suffolk lost three. Each county had one fatality in 2013.

Sgt. John Vahey of the Suffolk Police Marine Bureau cautioned against reading too much into the fatalities data. "The actual numbers were quite low," he said.

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But experts said more safety education for boaters is needed.

"One of the great problems we have in recreational boating . . . is just plain lack of knowledge, the rules of the road: Who goes to the right, who goes to the left, who gives way, speed and a number of things peculiar to the water," said Hugh Stephens, a former merchant mariner who teaches seamanship at SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx.

According to the report, boat registrations have declined every year since the 2008 recession. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 also dealt recreational boating a blow by forcing people to divert cash to home repairs.

The report cited at least one positive statistic: Only one person died while using a personal watercraft last year, compared to three deaths in 2013.

Users of personal watercraft such as Jet Skis have had to take safety courses since 2000, the report said.


Experts said classes also should be required for canoeists, rowboaters, kayakers and paddleboarders.

Only 4 percent of boating accidents from 2005 to 2014 involved paddle craft, but they "contribute to about 35 percent of the total fatalities," the report said.

While vessels with marine radios should call the Coast Guard during emergencies, Vahey recommended that other boaters call 911 on their cellphones if they run into trouble.

"We actually get a position. It kind of takes the 'search' out of search and rescue," he said.