On the night of August 7 last summer, a 41-foot powerboat with nine people aboard struck the east jetty at the entrance to Nantucket Harbor, leaving it high and dry on the rocks. Miraculously there were no injuries to anyone on board, but it could have been worse. Far worse, said Coast Guard Station Brant Point’s Andrew Babione, the station’s Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate.
It’s a stark example of why Babione and his crew at Brant Point are emphasizing National Boating Safety Week, which runs from May 21 to May 27.
“The operator of that vessel was not required to have any operator courses, he wasn’t required to know how to use the navigation equipment on his boat,” Babione said. “It was the middle of the night, operating in the channel, responsible for nine people including himself. That had a fortunate outcome, but it could have had a very unfortunate outcome just as easily.”
Babione and the members of Station Brant Point want recreational boaters to take the time to learn the basics: having proper equipment and gear - things like life jackets and fire extinguishers - knowing how to use them and where to locate them on their boat.
“In 2020 there were over 500 fatalities in boating accidents, and in all those cases, the victims were not wearing life jackets,” Babione said. “Children are required, but adults wearing a simple life jacket on a boat could save your life and cut those numbers down significantly.”
Harbormaster Sheila Lucey shared similar sentiments, especially for other activities in and around the water.
"Always wear a life jacket especially when wearing waders," Lucey said. "Please don’t kayak or use pool toys off the south or east shores of the island. Offshore winds and currents are too strong. No wake, no speeding in the mooring fields as there are people in dinghies, swimming and on stand-up paddle boards. Alcohol and boating don’t mix!."
New for this year, Babione said, are regulations for fire extinguishers that enforce an expiration date, as well engine cut-off switches being required for certain power driven vessels.
“The Coast Guard has implemented these minor changes to help prevent those catastrophic problems in the future,” Babione said.
On this Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, Coast Guard Station Brant Point will be welcoming the island community to the station for a day of safe boating education, tours and food. Station Brant Point will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Babione added that Nantucket’s Coast Guard Auxiliary is now offering monthly safe boating courses. Anyone interested in signing up for one of the classes can call the station’s business line at 508-228-0388.