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Coast Guard, Suffolk cops assist disoriented boater in Fire Island Inlet

A boater who was trying to navigate his 56-foot vessel through the rough waters of Fire Island Inlet early Wednesday became disoriented and had to be assisted by the Coast Guard and Suffolk County police, officials said.

According to a Coast Guard news release, Sector Long Island Sound command center watch standers received a call at 2:25 a.m. from Suffolk police about the boater experiencing problems aboard his vessel, The Phoenix.

The watch standers contacted the boater on his cellphone and he told them he was trying to get through the inlet, became disoriented and anchored his vessel off Fire Island’s Democratic Point, the release said.

The boater, who was not identified, also said he had no navigation equipment or VHF radio onboard and had concerns about the weather.

“He said the waves had been [at one point] around eight feet,” Petty Officer Frank Iannazzo-Simmons said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Sector Long Island Sound command center watch standers issued an urgent marine information broadcast and launched a 47-foot motor life boat from Station Fire Island and Suffolk County Marine X-ray and Suffolk County aviation also responded, officials said.

All responding units arrived on the scene in about an hour and escorted the Phoenix through Fire Island Inlet while Suffolk County aviation illuminated the way, allowing all vessels to arrive safely at Robert Moses boat basin.

“Two major concerns that come to mind in this case are fatigue and the lack of communication,” Lt. Matthew Richards, public affairs officer of Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound, said in a statement. “A day spent on a boat can be relaxing, however, prolonged boating spent in the sun, combined with noise, vibration, wind, and glare can have the same intoxicating effects on a person as alcohol or drugs.”

Richards noted that people shouldn’t operate a vehicle while intoxicated or fatigued, and a boat is no different.

“While boaters may feel safe operating their vessel with just a cellphone, the Coast Guard strongly encourages marine-band radios set to channel 16 for all boaters in case of distress,” Richards said.

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