Erie County Sheriff John C. Garcia encourages everyone to have a good time on the local waterways but warns boaters to be prepared and safe.
The Erie County Sheriff’s Marine Unit has launched its boats and has begun patrolling the nearly 90-miles of coastline around Erie County. The Marine Unit is on the lookout for reckless operation, boating while impaired, and stands ready for all types of emergencies on the water.
“My office has two specialized boats that patrol from the Cattaraugus Creek to the northern tip of Grand Island, the Erie Barge Canal and the Buffalo River, and along the Niagara River. My Deputies are there to ensure everyone has an opportunity to enjoy our great boating season and will stop anyone who is operating in an unsafe manner – this includes personal watercraft and paddle craft,” Garcia said.
Starting this year, anyone operating a motorized vessel born after Jan. 1, 1988, is required to have a boat safety certificate. This requirement, known as Brianna’s Law, was enacted in 2019 after the tragic 2005 boating accident where 11-year-old Brianna was killed.
In addition to Brianna’s Law, anyone operating jet skis or personal watercraft must be certified regardless of their age.
“I want everyone to have a great time with their friends and family on the water, and one of the ways you can do that is to follow the three “C”s,” said Garcia.
“Cautious – be cautious of the waterways and surrounding vessels;
“Courteous – be courteous to other boaters so everyone can have a good time; (and)
“Common Sense – use your common sense. If it seems dangerous or wrong – don’t do it.”
The sheriff’s office also warns boaters to pay close attention to the water and weather conditions. Local weather patterns can change in a moment, turning calm seas into dangerous ones. Operators should be prepared to head to shore or seek safety in a secluded bay until it is safe to return to port.
To sign up for boater certification classes or personal watercraft courses, you can visit our local boating club, the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, or the NY State Parks website to find a class near you. There, operators can also find a list of required equipment for all types of watercraft.