Southwick offers free boating course

SOUTHWICK, Mass. (The Westfield News) – Despite this morning’s snowy reminder that this is New England, it is officially spring and many residents are gearing up for boating season.

Lake Management Director Richard Grannells hopes those residents will sign up for a boating basics and safety course, Boat Massachusetts, offered April 5-8 at Town Hall.

“This course gives insight into how to operate a boat safely and state rules and regs,” said Grannells. “It also covers local town bylaws.”

While state regulations govern all bodies of water, towns can make local bylaws a bit more strict. For instance, only Class I boats, less than 26 feet long, are allowed on Congamond. And, there is no towing, tubing or water skiing in any of the channels.

“There’s always been state laws about no wake zones within 300 feet of a launch area, sand bar, swim beach, etc.,” said Grannells. “People used to ignore them, but now we have buoys out as a reminder. It doesn’t matter if you’re on Congamond or any other water body.”

Grannells said Southwick Police take lake laws seriously.

“Police are out enforcing and we have additional forces coming this year from the environmental police to patrol,” he said.

Boating on the lakes is recreational, and Grannells said OUI is a serious offense on the water.

“It is basically the same as operating a vehicle,” he said.

Taking the course is a chance for boaters to learn something new, even if they have spent a lifetime on the water.

“It’s a really good opportunity for people who may have taken it before because regulations do change,” said Grannells.

In addition to the safety and law knowledge the course offers, Grannells said some insurance companies provide a discount to boat owners that complete the course.

The course takes place April 5-8 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. and registration is required. Participants must be 18 years of age or Boat Massachusetts is offered at no charge by the Massachusetts Environmental Police and Town of Southwick.

Visit www.mass.gov.ole and click on Boat and Recreational Vehicle Safety for information and to register.

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