Bob Bori is beginning his fifth season as the Sag Harbor harbormaster. He discusses his job and how he prepares for the summer boating season.
By Mara Certic
You worked as a police officer for Southampton Town for 23 years. You have been a member of the Sag Harbor Fire Department for 35 years. Is experience in law enforcement a pre-requisite for becoming the harbormaster?
For civil service it’s a good idea to have some prior experience, if not, you have to go to a police officers school held by the Sheriff’s office. And some marine experience—I mean I worked on the bay when I was younger before I started working at the police department. And I’ve been on the water ever since I was a kid, clamming, fishing, scalloping.
With a staff of only eight, how do you manage to keep on top of the waterways when hundreds of boats arrive for the summer?
Ed Michaels is a senior harbormaster in East Hampton; he’s in charge of the marine patrol. And he was pretty much instrumental in putting the East End Law Enforcement Task Force together about six or eight years ago. And what it did was brought all the East End marine patrols together. I was just working on the preparations for the upcoming fireworks. For example, because we only have one boat, the other jurisdictions get together. East Hampton’s sending a boat, Southampton will send two boats, Shelter Island will send a boat and we’ll use a couple of fireboats.
What else have you been doing to prepare for the Independence Day fireworks?
Everybody’s assigned an area, a certain sector out there that they’re responsible for, and then in case there’s an EMS issue or somebody gets sick, or there’s an arrest situation we figure out ahead of time how that’s going to be addressed. The firework barge goes about 2,000 feet northeast of the breakwater; so there are a lot of boats that go out from all over. We have to keep a certain zone cordoned off as a safety zone.
How many accidents are there during a typical summer season?
It varies. Last year was pretty quiet, but the year before we had quite a few. I’m guessing maybe 12 or 15 accident reports the year before last; for the most part those accidents are people hitting rocks at Gull Island—which is just north of here, south of the main channel. Some people just don’t know the area and don’t really know what they’re doing. The last really serious accident was about eight years ago—a few kids got seriously injured, but since then, at least in the last five years we haven’t had anything major.
What preventative measures do you take to avoid accidents?
We started last summer, and we’re doing it again this summer, having some boating-while-intoxicated checkpoints. It works out pretty well, everybody’s limited in resources but then when we need them—or if there’s a serious boat accident or a search and rescue trip, then everyone gets involved.
If there is an accident out on the water that requires an emergency response, what is the general procedure?
If there is a boat accident, I get dispatched and if it comes through that there are injuries onboard, then the ambulance will be dispatched too, and the fire department. Everybody goes out. We usually have a plan in place where I take a few EMTs out with me on my boat and a few of them also go out on the fireboat, and we assess it from there.
This week, the Village Board approved advertising spots in your mooring field, just south of the breakwater. What provoked you to seek that approval?
People just aren’t re-upping this year; we have two lists for dock spaces and moorings, residents and non-residents. The dock spaces are the premium and we have a lot of people who want them. But for some reason, we haven’t received as much interest in our mooring spots this year.