Hundreds of people attended the seventh annual Huntington Waterfront Festival on Sunday as organizers and advocates promoted safe boating a week before the unofficial summer kickoff of Memorial Day weekend.
The event at Mill Dam Park in Halesite, with vendors and music, is jointly sponsored by the town and the Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs. Programs on boating safety and marine issues continue through Wednesday.
Lisa Gaines, of Huntington Station, handed out reusable bags with a brochure on boating safety. Her daughter, Victoria Gaines, died July 4, 2012, two days shy of her 8th birthday, trapped in the cabin of a capsized boat in Oyster Bay after a fireworks display. Cousins David Aureliano, 12, and Harlie Treanor, 11, daughter of the boat's owner, also died that night.
"I just hope we don't have any more tragedies," she said. She speaks now at the start of boat safety training classes, on the importance of marine safety.
Jackie Martin, executive officer with the boating council, said the groups are trying to get the word out about boating safety to both new owners and experienced hands.
"People buy boats and think all they need is to get behind the wheel, turn the key and away they go," Martin said, but noted there are channel markers, VHF radio, and right-of-ways to learn about.
"There's a lot more to know than driving a powerboat or sailing a sailboat," he said.
This year marks the seventh year of the festival, which started after the July 4th tragedy in Oyster Bay.
In Albany, lawmakers are considering a bill that would require all boaters in New York to take a one-day, eight-hour boating safety class. The bill has passed the State Senate, but would still need to pass the Assembly and be signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Susan Beck, commander of the Huntington-based Neptune Sail and Power Squadron, said the law would be important for keeping boaters safe. The squadron provides boating instruction and education in Huntington Town.
"You don't think about boating safety until you hear about an accident," Beck said. "And we've heard about too many accidents."
Anthony Pozun, executive officer of the squadron, gave festivalgoers information about boating safety, including the benefits of taking safety classes and wearing personal floatation devices.
"You can go out and buy an $8 million boat, and have no education," he said.