Teaching the Teachers

 

Mike Folkerts and Dave Borg, boating safety experts at the Coast Guard 17th District prevention department, demonstrate the proper way to assist a person in the water while using a personal watercraft as volunteer students watch at Auke Lake in Juneau, Alaska, June 15, 2013. The course attendees plan to start a community-operated boating safety course for anyone interested. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Mike Folkerts and Dave Borg, boating safety experts at the Coast Guard 17th District prevention department, demonstrate the proper way to assist a person in the water while using a personal watercraft as volunteer students watch at Auke Lake in Juneau, Alaska, June 15, 2013. The course attendees plan to start a community-operated boating safety course for anyone interested. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

The scene on Auke Lake Saturday morning looked like any other sunny day in Southeast Alaska. A pair of personal watercraft was carefully brought down the boat ramp. A small crowd gathered, decked out in flip flops, sunglasses and swimsuits. Birds sang, a breeze blew and the weather was warm. It was the perfect setup for a day of leisure. But at closer inspection, it became apparent that this gathering was getting down to business: safety business.Two men wearing Coast Guard water safety equipment climbed onto the PWCs and began talking to their students about properly operating the powerful vessels.

Mike Folkerts and Dave Borg, both boating safety experts with the Coast Guard 17th District prevention department, provided a handful of Juneau-area PWC users with the tools to start their own community boating safety classes.

“The Coast Guard doesn’t have enforcement authority on an inland body of water like Auke Lake,” said Folkerts. “However, our knowledge of water safety and federal law, along with the Coast Guard’s priority for protection of life at sea, made our office more than happy to assist in spreading safe boating practices to the Juneau community.”

The lesson started early Saturday morning in the Electronic System Support Unit Juneau training room. Before they took the eager students out to the water, Folkerts and Borg covered general boating safety, risk mitigation and PWC-specific techniques during an open discussion with the small class.

Mike Folkerts, a boating safety expert at the Coast Guard 17th District prevention department, goes over the emergency equipment every personal watercraft user should carry with them while operating their vessel during a peer-educator course in Juneau, Alaska, June 15, 2013. Folkerts and Dave Borg, also of the 17th District prevention department, taught the class to a group of Juneau-area PWC users interested in spreading boating safety lessons in the community. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Mike Folkerts, a boating safety expert at the Coast Guard 17th District prevention department, goes over the emergency equipment every personal watercraft user should carry with them while operating their vessel during a peer-educator course in Juneau, Alaska, June 15, 2013. Folkerts and Dave Borg, also of the 17th District prevention department, taught the class to a group of Juneau-area PWC users interested in spreading boating safety lessons in the community. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

“It’s very important that adults, as well as young people, are learning water safety practices,” said Angela Miller, a Juneau resident and PWC-user who attended the course with her 15-year-old son. “We’re looking at improving public awareness and letting people know what they can do to protect themselves on any body of water in the area.”

After a quick trip to the parking lot to discuss vessel terminology and necessary safety equipment, they were off to the lake.Once the two instructors had the PWCs on the water, they demonstrated safe maneuvering techniques, emergency operations and the effect of a large wake on paddling craft. Once again, the students held an open conversation with Folkerts and Borg about teaching practices for the community-led class they hope to establish.

“We just wanted to give members of the community the tools they need to build a boating safety network of their own,” said Borg. “When people are concerned enough about safety to start their own system, that’s exciting.”

For more information, contact Mike Folkerts at 907-463 -2297.

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