Workshop held to promote watercraft safety

Fifteen-year-old Rylee O'Flaherty of Rotterdam displays her personal watercraft in the parking lot at Alpin Haus on Route 30 in Amsterdam Saturday during a PWC Safety Day event. She is the 2018 Novice Class Pro Watercross World Champion. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

AMSTERDAM — Kevin O’Flattery was riding personal watercraft in his younger days but said the speed and power of watercraft nowadays has put those craft in the lead for head trauma and vessel-to-vessel collisions.

Traveling at 50 miles per hour or more, and sometimes having 500 horsepower engines, a craft can accelerate from zero to 60 in 2.3 seconds– “faster than a Ferrari,” he said.

“Twenty years ago, a PWC might take a minute to reach a pontoon boat a hundred yards away, now it’s less than seconds,” he said.

Modern PWC can have many distractors, such as stereos; gauges measuring, time and water temperatures; fishing finders; and ever present water spray, he said.

“Anybody can have an accident,” said O’Flaherty, a longtime member of the Adirondack Jet Club in Northampton. “Things can turn tragic in seconds.”

Flotation devices, wetsuits and gloves were among the items on sale for a water safety fundraiser in the parking lot at Alpin Haus on Route 30 in Amsterdam Saturday during a PWC Safety Day event. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

That’s what brought in O’Flaherty as part of the Watercraft Network to Personal Watercraft Safety Day outside Alpin Haus on Route 30 on Saturday.

His organization was joined by the Henry D. Ross III Memorial Fund; the Sean Craig Memorial Fund; Fulton, Montgomery and Saratoga sheriffs departments; a state Department of Environmental Conservation officer; and Alpin Haus in providing education on water safety at a booth outside the business as part of FC Sheriff Richard Giardino’s Safe Lake Initiative.

The memorial funds, which stemmed from two accidental deaths on Great Sacandaga Lake, were also raising money to promote water safety.

The Craig fund and Taylor Made has furnished 22 life rings, flotation devices linked to 60-foot lines anchored to posts, to marinas and parks.

The fund has also supplied underwater sonar to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department and a 50/50 match to provide two watercraft devices for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department to use on the Mohawk River.

Personal watercraft line the parking lot at Alpin Haus on Route 30 in Amsterdam Saturday during a PWC Safety Day event. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

It is also working to set up and supply lifejacket loaner station at Wally’s Driftwood Park.

The Ross fund has raised money from a snowmobile memorial run to start and maintain a Send It app that allows users to inform other snowmobilers of hazards such as thin ice, debris and ice heaves.

O’Flaherty said one of the problems related to water way safety is that the state boating safety course is at least 20 years old and has not been updated to include upgrades in PWCs. Another problem is that PWC manufacturers are not recommending helmets for PWC users, but not discouraging it either. He said if a rider flies off his PWC at high speeds into the water, he can be “seriously injured.”

O’Flaherty brought his 15-year-old daughter, Rylee, with him to the Saturday event because she is the 2018 Novice Sport Class Pro Watercross World Champion and might relate better to young people.

“I am here to promote safety,” she said, adding that younger people might “listen to someone their age.”

“I’ve seem some bad accidents.”

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