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Guest column | Joanne Fessel

As boating season hits high gear, think safety

Safe Boating Week begins Saturday and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is ready. Are you? Have you taken the appropriate safe-boating programs necessary to keep your passengers and your boat safe on the water? Think you know everything about safe boating? Do you and your passengers wear your life jackets while under way? Has your boat passed our free safety vessel exam?

Congratulations if you answered yes to all those questions; most of us do not.

Our job at the Coast Guard Auxiliary is to help you stay informed and safe, but we need your help to do that. U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets should be worn by everyone on your boat while under way. Yes, it's hot, doesn't look cool and you don't get that all-over tan you like so much. Plus you can swim better if not wearing it, right? Wrong!

The majority of deaths on the water are from drowning due to not wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. It's nearly impossible to put a life jacket on while in the water (try it), so just having them on the boat isn't going to save someone's life.

Today's life jackets are comfortable, not bulky, and stylish. There are a variety of life jackets from which to choose. They allow the mobility and flexibility you need when boating, fishing or paddling, and are much cooler in the warmer weather. There are some that inflate instantly when you hit the water.

Accidents happen at an alarming speed and at any time. There isn't enough time to grab a life jacket and put it on properly before weather conditions worsen. (In Florida, we know all about how fast weather changes, especially in the summer.) Wearing a life jacket not only keeps you safe, but allows you to help someone else if need be.

Don't drink and drive: We hear it all the time pertaining to driving a car, but it's just as bad, and sometimes worse, when drinking on the water. Remember, one beer on land equals three on the water due to the sun and dehydration. Alcohol use affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. Alcohol is a contributing factor in about one-quarter of all boating fatalities. Keep your family and friends safe by not drinking while on the water.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in Hernando Beach offers a variety of educational safe-boating programs throughout the year. They are inexpensive and presented by dedicated and experienced auxiliary members. Whether you're new to boating or have years of experience, we have programs that will interest you. Call 573-8155 for more information, or go online at a0701508.uscgaux.info for details about our upcoming programs.

Free vessel-safety checks are available year-round. We will come to your boat wherever you keep it. Upon successful completion, you will receive a decorative decal for your boat. Call 666-7239 to make an appointment. Don't wait for an emergency to find out what you should have on your boat.

A Safe Boating Open House will be Saturday and Sunday at the Flotilla, 4340 Calienta St. (corner of Calienta and Shoal Line Boulevard), Hernando Beach, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be free information, various boats on display, including the Hernando County Sheriff's Office and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The Sheriff's Office also will have its Mobile Command Post. There will be various demonstrations, free vessel-safety checks and more.

Our goal is to make 2008 the safest boating season yet. Would you like to join us? Flotilla 15-8 is proud to be one of the largest flotillas on the west coast of Florida. We are the uniformed civilian volunteer component of the U.S. Coast Guard and actively seeking volunteers interested in serving their country and their community. Our next "Who We Are" presentation is on May 27 at 7 p.m. at the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary building. Call 596-8542 for more information.

Joanne Fessel is the Flotilla Staff Officer of Public Affairs, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 15-8, Hernando Beach.

As boating season hits high gear, think safety 05/15/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:58pm]
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