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Be prepared before sailing away

Have you ever wondered why Coast Guard rescue boats and rescue helicopters are always ready? They inspect their craft inside and out, they check all equipment and lines. The officers brief crew members on their duties. They start the engines and functionally check them, along with steering, lights and radios. After everything is secured, they check for leaks and fumes. Then, and only then, do they report, "Ready for duty".

If every boater would take at least 10 minutes for the same kind of check, fewer outings would end in an accident that could have been prevented. Keeping your boat or other vessel clean and well maintained is one of the key ingredients of boating safety. A regular maintenance program along with regular safety inspections can help assure a safe and enjoyable time on the water.

Wearing one's personal flotation device (life jacket) while on the water is something else the prudent skipper of any watercraft does and insists that his passengers do as well. Remember, for children six years of age and under, it is the law! Regardless of the law, it just makes good sense for everyone to wear their life jacket, especially when weather and water conditions become unstable.

Boating without alcohol is another smart move on the part of prudent skippers and their passengers! Like driving a motor vehicle on the highway, it just isn't smart or safe to operate a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol. Just as drunken drivers maim and kill innocent victims on our highways, so too, drunken watercraft operators maim and kill innocent victims on our waterways!

Another thing the prudent skipper does is stay abreast of the latest safe boating techniques as well as current laws and other rules and regulations pertaining to the operation of vessels on our area waters! The members of Homosassa Flotilla 15-04 of your United States Coast Guard Auxiliary stand ready to assist you, the boating public, in making your time on the water a safe and enjoyable experience. These dedicated men and women volunteers do so by providing free vessel safety checks, conducting public education classes as a part of their Basic Seamanship and Safe Boating program as well as conducting both surface and air safety patrols, environmental patrols, navigational aids, maintenance surveys, radio communications and participating in search and rescue operations as assigned by the U.S. Coast Guard.

For information regarding our free vessel safety checks, public education programs or how to become a member of this dedicated and active group, you need only to drop me a line or an e-mail at the address below. I will be most happy to put you in touch with the appropriate person.

Remember, safe boating is no accident!

Wilbur B. Scott's mailing address: U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 15-4, P.O. Box 2084, Homosassa Springs, FL 34447-2084.

_ Editor's note: This is one of a series of guest columns that are run periodically. Today's column is written by Wilbur B. Scott, assistant public affairs officer for Flotilla 15-04 of Homosassa. Contact him at 628-0639 or e-mail: seacapt34448yahoo.com.

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