Avast, ye lubbers, and boat safe

05/20/2010 12:00 AM |

Leonard Llewellyn, seen here at the Mattituck Park District dock Wednesday morning, will be honored at Mitchell Park in Greenport Saturday morning for his 50 years of teaching safe boating techniques to North Fork youths.

If there were a title of Mr. Community Service, Mattituck resident Leonard Llewellyn, 68, might wear that mantle. On Saturday, he will be honored in a ceremony at Greenport’s Mitchell Park for his 50 years as a volunteer boating safety instructor for the New York State Marine Services Bureau.

The honor comes just after Mr. Llewellyn celebrated his 40th anniversary as a volunteer firefighter with the Mattituck Fire Department. And this is also the year he and his wife Marjory celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.

When Mr. Llewellyn convinced his father to allow him to take a course in Riverhead to become a boating safety instructor, he hadn’t yet received his driver’s license. At 19, he was the youngest person in the class.

“When I started out, I never really thought I’d be doing it for 50 years,” he said. He estimated that he has trained more than 1,000 kids. The Peconic Bay Power Squadron in March celebrated Mr. Llewellyn’s 50 years of service with a party at the Soundview Restaurant.

Ro Woodard, Marine Services Bureau education specialist, attested to Mr. Llewellyn’s staying power. Of the 700 currently active instructors, over 400 have been doing the job only since 2005, she said.

“He is definitely the last of the original crop,” Ms. Woodard said. “He’s kind of got his finger on the pulse out there.”

He is also one of the instructors who has stayed faithful to the original charge of the Marine Services Bureau — training youths to be safe boaters. He would teach an adult who wants to accompany a child and learn the safety issues, Mr. Llewellyn said, but he loves teaching kids the most.

“The kids overall are pretty receptive” to the course, he said. “Their minds are like sponges.” They will tell him things they’re not always comfortable telling their parents, so he becomes something of a surrogate, helping to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Even after his younger students pass his course and get a certificate, he bows to parents to decide when they feel their sons and daughters can take boats out alone, he said.

“I was introduced to boating at age 6,” he said, recalling the small craft his parents kept in Freeport. When he first wanted to have his own boat, his mother promised that if he and his siblings learned to swim, they could have one.

Not only has he devoted years of service to the bureau, but he has also recruited many other trainers through the Peconic Bay Power Squadron.

Safety has always been at the base of the training, but in recent years, there is more emphasis on the danger of drinking while boating, Mr. Llewellyn said. Since the early 1990s, more attention has also been given to Jet Skis and other types of watercraft.

“There’s a difference between being right and being dead right,” he tells his students.

Boaters from age 10 to 18 are required to have a safe boater certificate to go out alone; those under 10 must be accompanied by an adult or anyone with a certificate. The state requires that those wishing to obtain a certificate take a minimum of eight hours of classroom training including safety measures that help avoid accidents. First aid is also a required topic.

Mr. Llewellyn said he’s particularly attuned to the importance of wearing life jackets, especially off season, when fewer constables or other boaters will be on the water to offer help in an emergency.

When he’s not out training young boaters, he’s often at home scanning his weather forecasting equipment or listening to police and fire calls. Mr. Llewellyn is a local weather watcher for the National Weather Service in Upton, to which he sends data on North Fork conditions.

Mr. Llewellyn started his career at Plum Island but decided he could do better on his own, and over a 32-year career, he did. He owned a fire extinguisher service company until his retirement about a year ago.

He has been a lifelong member of Suffolk County Fire Educators, a charter member and former president of the North Fork Fire Police Association and past president of the North Fork Volunteer Firemen’s Association. He’s still active with the North Fork Chamber of Commerce.

Around The Suffolk Times newsroom, he’s revered for his tips about fire and police activities, with phone calls that start, “Basically what happened on the thing was …” Then he’ll go on to provide details that reporters can use to ask better questions of the police.

In addition to honoring Mr. Llewellyn, Saturday’s celebration, which gets under way at 11 a.m., will mark the start of Safe Boating Week and the new “Wear It, NY!” campaign, aimed at making boaters aware of the need to wear life jackets.

During the event, Southold Town and Shelter Island will each receive a new 26-foot Boston Whaler Justice marine patrol boat provided by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. A federal recreational boating safety grant administered by the U.S. Coast Guard is paying for the two boats.

Also on Saturday, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators will present an award to Scott Stokkers of Huntington for his bravery in saving three young lives on Long Island Sound last summer. Mr. Stokkers responded to cries for help from the three boaters, whose 10-foot vessel took on water and sank off Makamah Beach. They weren’t wearing life jackets and probably wouldn’t have survived had it not been for Mr. Stokkers’ actions, according to the state parks department.

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Celebrate safe boating

Saturday, May 22, 11 a.m.

Mitchell Park, Front Street, Greenport

Leonard Llewellyn will be honored for his 50 years of service as a boat safety instructor during the state Marine Services Bureau’s kickoff of ‘Wear It!’ campaign. Two marine patrol boats will be awarded to Southold and Shelter Island towns.