Boating safety for a busy season

 

Coast Guard Auxiliarist Stu Robards watches a family offload their catch during a salmon derby in Auke Bay, Alaska, Aug. 9, 2013. Robards and other Coast Guard personnel patrolled Juneau harbors over the derby weekend, educating the public on safe boating practices. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst

Coast Guard Auxiliarist Stu Robards watches a family offload their catch during a salmon derby in Auke Bay, Alaska, Aug. 9, 2013. Robards and other Coast Guard personnel patrolled Juneau harbors over the derby weekend, educating the public on safe boating practices. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst

An armada of dreary clouds hangs over Auke Bay, Alaska. Only a hint of blue cuts through the grey curtain hung loosely between the mountain peaks framing the sea.

The conditions seem tailored to deter mariners, but the hustle and bustle in the harbor goes on, regardless. Fishermen hauling totes of gear pass families prepping their boats for a day on the water. Everything from skiffs, to full-sized fishing boats, to enormous tourist-laden charter vessels idle past the stretches of pier. Everyone is outbound. This is the first day of a fishing derby.

When marine traffic makes a predictable spike this time of the year, Coast Guard personnel in Alaska go into overdrive.

Coast Guard Auxiliarist Stu Robards paces the pier with a special mission. His primary goal is to educate the public on safe boating habits.

“We want to engender the good habit of always wearing personal flotation devices for children,” said Robards. “We’re also reminding parents that it’s a good behavior for them to model for their kids.”

Robards was not the only boating safety representative out for the derby. The Coast Guard also had personnel at Douglas and Almaga harbors to encourage life jacket use.

“Events like the fishing derby put a lot of boaters on the water at once, and therein increase the possibility of an emergency situation,” said Mike Folkerts, a boating safety expert at the Coast Guard 17th District. “By making sure people are prepared before they even leave the pier, we hope to give everyone the tools they need to stay safe out there.”

Between the three harbors, Folkerts, Robards and others were able to reach countless boaters and their children before they got underway. As long as people are using boats, the Coast Guard will be working toward their priority for the safety of life at sea.

If you’re gearing up to do some fishing this weekend, and happen to see someone in a Coast Guard uniform walking around, make sure to stop by, say hello, and maybe pick up a piece of good advice or two.

Check out these great websites for boating safety tips:

North American Safe Boating Campaign

Boating Safety Resource Center

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