The recent loss of two boaters in nearby Little Neck Bay has heightened awareness of boater safety and the enforcement efforts to keep the waters of Manhasset Bay safe. The responsibility for safety in Manhasset Bay rests primarily with the staff of the Town of North Hempstead's Bay Constable Unit based at the town dock.
Constables Squires and Morluck on patrol on Marine #6.
The constables' fleet consists of four vessels: a 31-foot Bertram, two 17-foot Boston Whalers and a 23-foot pump-out boat. The pump out boat is a courtesy service, available to boaters at no charge by calling on radio frequency # 9. The Bertram was constructed in 1969 in accordance with military specifications and is equipped with two 250 horsepower diesel engines. It has a top speed of 33 knots per hour and a powerful water pump capable of rapid removal of water from a sinking boat. The constables' unit consists of a supervising constable, seven constables and a security officer and reports to the harbormaster, Mr. Warren Schein. In addition to Manhasset Bay, the constables patrol from the Throgs Neck Bridge to Hempstead Harbor and will respond to assist marine units from other jurisdictions such as the Coast Guard and the police departments of Nassau and New York City. The most recent example of this inter-agency cooperation occurred this July with the joint rescue/recovery mission of two missing boaters in Little Neck Bay.
The unit maintains its own vessels, the five-mph perimeter warnings and most of Manhasset Bay's buoys. It is empowered to enforce all state, county and town regulations relating to water safety. In 2001, the unit issued over 100 summonses most of which were for excessive wakes. A major enforcement problem is the use of jet skis. These personal watercraft base their popularity on speed and are preferred by younger boaters seeking thrills on the water. Jet skis seen in Manhasset Bay often originate on City Island, are brought into the bay on larger boats or launched from the Manorhaven boat ramp.
The Bay Constable Unit is under the supervision of five year veteran Mal Nathan who monitors all assignments of his staff and incidents occurring in and around Manhasset Bay. Over 40 incidents have been logged this year including a boat fire, two severe sinkings (to the bottom) and four minor (partial) sinkings. Other incidents include running out of gas, mechanical problems, and soft groundings, which often occur at Plum and Tom's Point. Nathan brings to his position 13 years of boating experience as a charter boat captain out of Montauk Point on his 35 foot Main Coaster. His law enforcement credentials include the prestigious Marine Police Vessel Operator's Course administered jointly at Timber Point, Great River, Long Island by the Nassau and Suffolk Police Marine Divisions. This intense 80-hour program includes fire fighting techniques, towing and helicopter operations. Nathan has been certified in police marine procedures by the New York State Department of Criminal Justice, the Nassau and Suffolk Police Departments. He and his deputy, Constable Steven Morlock, are available 24/7 via beeper and cell phone to respond immediately to incidents in the Bay.
The security officer, Ms. Dina Scobbo, who has 16 years service with the constables, mans the house on the town dock, which serves as the base of operations for the constables. Scobbo maintains radio contact with all constable vessels via VHF radio and cell phone, supervises the town dock and processes applications for mooring permits. This year, she noted that some have relinquished their mooring as a result of the economic fallout from 9-11. She maintains a close scrutiny of all mooring balls; permit holders not using their ball may well receive a call to determine whether it is still needed.
At present, there is a three-year wait to obtain one of the town's 165 moorings. Boat length is limited to 25 feet and applicants are required to be residents of North Hempstead. When faced by potential boaters seeking information on boating requirements, Dina and others in the unit will ask about their knowledge of safe boating principles. If the interested party has no boating skills or knowledge, they are referred to the many safety courses offered in the Port Washington area.
The major boating accident of the 2002 season occurred on Memorial Day with the sinking of a 54-foot Hatteras off Hewlett's Point. The craft severely damaged its hull when it collided with the dock when embarking from City Island. The vessel's captain was unaware of the extent of the damage and set out for Manhasset Bay. At the entrance to the bay, a Mayday call brought rescuers from our Bay Constable Unit and the Coast Guard based in Kings Point. The vessel was salvaged, removed to City Island and four passengers were rescued in this joint operation.
A typical two-man crew patrolling the waters of Manhasset Bay is the team of Constables Steven Morlock and George A. Squires. During a severe evening storm this spring, the skills of veterans Morlock and Squires were severely taxed when it became obvious a number of boats were taking on water and in danger of sinking. Morlock and Squires tied alongside over seven boats taking on water and used the formidable pumping capacity of the Bertram to rescue the boats from sinking. The owners were notified at home through the security officer at the dock house and responded to assist. As a result, no boats were lost.
The boating season was in full swing when Morlock and Squires made an emergency run to a grounded 45-foot power boat in the rocky waters around the Stepping Stones lighthouse just east of the Throgs Neck Bridge. The boat's captain had little idea that he had struck rocks in one of the most treacherous areas in the Sound and called for assistance stating simply that he believed his boat struck some lobster pots. With blue lights flashing they arrived quickly at the scene, worked side-by-side with the Coast Guard and rescued the two men on the boat.
At 7:00 p.m., Memorial Day, Morlock responded to a fire on board a 42-foot sailboat docked in the Capri Marina in Manorhaven. The fire was caused by a faulty electrical wiring system and destroyed much of the interior. Morlock working with the Port Fire Dept. assisted in putting out the fire. He was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.
Morlock is a licensed Coast Guard captain and, in his off duty hours, can be found piloting his own 41 foot Hatteras on Long Island's South Shore. Squires brings 22 years of law enforcement experience with the New York City Department of Corrections to his position with the constables. Morlock and Squires' advice to local boaters is watch your wake, follow safe boating rules and be especially vigilant for their boats breaking from their moorings, especially during October and November when four or five typically break loose.
Bay patrols have their lighter moments such as the surprise last summer when the constables witnessed the playful visit of a dolphin to the town dock. For the animal's safety, the constables immediately notified the Coast Guard and a local environmental group. After a brief romp, the friendly dolphin turned around and returned to Long Island Sound, another visitor who enjoyed the beauty of Manhasset Bay.