New RI Boating Rules and Spring Turkey Hunts
Turkey and regulation seasons are part of New England Spring sporting seasons The State of Rhode Island has proposed changes to their rules of the road for boaters while the State is working with the Light Foundation to help introduce young people to the great outdoors and the fine skill of turkey hunting. If you love either or both, it’s time to think about Spring and be ready for new rules.
RI Department of Environmental Management has proposed several new rules ultimately meant to keep boaters safe. One new rule is based on solid logic and will require paddlers to wear personal floatation devices. The proposal states, “All operators and passengers of canoes, kayaks, sailboards, kiteboards, paddleboards, and any other paddle craft shall wear a US Coast Guard approved PFD at all times while underway regardless of age.” Simple enough. If anyone has suffered through an unexpected flip or capsizing or has read one of our remembrances of folks lost who went fishing without one, they will see this as pure common sense.
Plus, technology has vastly improved PFD design from bulky, ugly and uncomfortable to remarkably small and easy to wear. According to the American Boating Association, in 2020, “Where cause of death was known, 75% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 86% were not wearing a lifejacket.”
All boats with fire extinguishers will need to comply with 33 CFR 175 Subpart E, which basically means they will be replaced every 12 months. There’s really no sense in carrying an expired one anyway.
If your outboard has a cut off switch, you’ll need to use it. Cut off’s are those keys that shut engines down if the operator leaves the helm. They’re also the things we remember we left on garage work benches two hours into a drive to a lake or what we forget to use when we can’t start our outboards with six anxious boaters pacing behind us at the ramp using bad words. “Operators of recreational vessels less than 26’ in length that are equipped with an engine cut off switch shall be required to use said engine cut off switch while the boat is on plane or above displacement speed.”
Boating Regulations are Meant to Keep Us Safe
Much like slowing down and moving over for stopped emergency vehicles on the highway, RIDEM is proposing a regulation that we slow down on the water as well. “A person may not operate a vessel faster than headway speed within 300 feet of an emergency vessel, including but not limited to law enforcement vessels, United States Coast Guard vessels, firefighting vessels when such vessel’s emergency lights are activated, or vessels engaged in activities recognized by the US Coast Guard displaying rotating or sequential flashing red and yellow lights.” That’s not too much to ask. If you’ve ever been rocked in your kayak or center console or watched bait flying out of coolers because some clown buried you with their wake, you’ll understand how difficult that must be when you’re trying to save someone’s life or douse a fire for someone with expired extinguishers.
The final rule in a new turkey and regulation season might seem like Big Brother reaching too far but it’s based on the realities, often unfortunate ones, that enforcement officers and first responders see regularly. “No operator of a vessel under power shall allow any person to ride or sit on the gunwales, tops of seat backs or on the decking over the bow of a boat while underway unless the bow of the vessel is equipped with seats designed to accommodate passengers or a handrail that encompasses the bow and all persons on the bow are inward of such handrail. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to persons in or on the bow of a vessel engaged in anchoring, mooring, or docking.” There should be some allowance for people trolling from the bow perhaps but the goal is to keep people in the boat. The ABA also reported that in 2020, “There were 247 accidents in which at least one person was struck by a propeller. Collectively, these accidents resulted in 39 deaths and 241 injuries.” That’s a fine reason to keep people in the boat.
The Light Foundation, started by former New England Patriots’ left tackle Matt Light, offers youth wild turkey hunt programs in Ohio and Rhode Island. The Foundation’s goals are to, “get kids outdoors learning firsthand about our natural resources, develop conservation-minded citizens and leaders, foster a love of outdoor recreation and teach important virtues like patience, respect, ethics, responsibility, and emotional control.” This world may be changing quickly but hunting has always been a primary way of understanding and respecting the outdoors. From this desk, the more time kids spend on the water and in the woods, the less time they walk around staring at electronics. This third annual, free youth hunt for kids aged 12-15 is a two day adventure beginning on April 21 at Addieville East Farm in Mapleville, RI. Hunters will spend time with mentors while learning about firearm safety, hunting rules, how to sight their firearms and regulations. Day two is all about using new skills with their mentors and hunting for turkeys. This will be followed by lunch and tutorials on proper field dressing and harvesting techniques. Contact Brandi Turner at 937-316-6352 for more information.