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�DANGERS OF DRIFTING THE INLET�
By CWO3 Dennis P. Casey / Commanding Officer
UCG Station Shinnecock/East Moriches

We're now in full swing of the long awaited fall run for the highly sought after striped bass. Both Moriches and Shinnecock Inlets are crowded with boats day and night looking to hook up with a large linesiders and with this excitement comes a great deal of responsibility, danger but hopefully fun times. How you prepare your boat and utilize your practical seamanship skills will affect yourself and others.

Having been a Striper fisherman my entire life growing up on the beaches and rocky coast of Rhode Island, I've witnessed numerous joyous occasions of fisherman enjoying the thrill of landing a large striper. While serving in the Coast Guard for over 25 years I have witnessed too many occasions where these joyous trips have quickly turned into frightening nightmares.

Over the past 18 months while assigned to Station Shinnecock, I have been directly involved with the dangers of the South Shore inlets, especially Moriches.  Moriches Inlet is very unstable and hard to read. These quiet waters change dramatically as you work your way through the Ebb or Flood tides and require even the most experienced boaters to pay attention. I have witnessed so many near mishaps while fishing in my own boat during these times, that I have stopped taking my younger children with me while fishing the Inlet.

Now to clarify this a little there is a great number of what I consider professional boaters in the inlet. I see them paying attention to what they're doing and to what�s going on around them and these boaters have saved numerous people from the rocks and waves of Moriches Inlet. Unfortunately there are those few people that refuse to pay attention or are just not aware of the dangers associated with drifting or anchoring amongst a crowd of boats. These boaters quickly become a safety concern to themselves, the boats around them and for the people who are called to assist them. Whether it be a Good Sam, a Towing Co., the Marine Patrol or the Coast Guard, boaters are putting someone else�s life at risk because they may not have been as prepared as they thought, or haven�t taken that extra safety precaution before leaving the dock.

Over the past two weeks the Coast Guard, Suffolk County Marine and Sea Tow have responded to numerous incidents that were very dangerous and nearly cost someone their life and their boat. Most of these cases are usually from boaters drifting out the inlet on a full Ebb tide and not being able to start their engines before entering the large waves or surf zone.

I have listed some safety precautions that are in addition to having the federally required safety equipment.

1.     Before you arrive to the inlet make sure you are completely ready for that first drift. Some people are drifting and paying attention to getting rods ready and rigging lines with their heads down while drifting. Make all these preparations before you begin the drift.

2.      If you secure your engines during the drift, make sure you have an anchor and line rigged and ready for when that old Johnson won�t start. Searching for your anchor and line while entering the surf is too late.

3.     I know some folks think wearing life jackets just isn�t cool. If you refuse to wear them, have them close by so when you have to enter the water you can bring it with you. It will save your life and is required to be immediately accessible.

4.     Anchoring is a big issue. Anchoring in a navigable channel is not permitted under federal law. Many boats anchor because they don�t want to deal with drifting and restarting their engines. You must anchor out of the way of the main channel, along the outside of the channel near the jetty is acceptable. If anchoring at night you must have an anchor light (all around white light) displayed and not be displaying your navigational running lights (red/green side and white stern lights). If you�re drifting you need your navigational running lights displayed at all times Other boaters looking at you should immediately know what your doing, they do this by identifying your lights.

5.     Common courtesy. When the boat next to you is fighting a fish stay out of his way even if this means ending your drift early.

6.     If your not sure on how to safely fish in this environment, hire a local charter. There are numerous charter boats available along the South Shore that have highly experienced people operating them. They can take you fishing and educate you on the local waters and customs so you�re more comfortable taking your own boat out safely.

It�s the responsibility of each and every boater to make sure they are doing everything possible to keep themselves and others safe. Take a few extra minutes during this time of year when the water is turning cold and the waves are a little bit higher, to make sure you�re as safe as possible and you�ll live to fish another day. 

 

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