By Noelle H. Lowery
For the last 47 years, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 95 has helped keep the 220 square miles of water from Rookery Bay to Chokoloskee Pass safe for boating, fishing and recreation. In 2013, Flotilla 95 had 72 volunteer members who fulfilled its non-law enforcement and non-military role aiding in search and rescue missions, teaching boating education classes, conducting vessel safety checks, monitoring marine safety and environmental protection, and verifying the condition and location of aids to navigation.
To celebrate and honor this work, Flotilla 95 recently held its annual Change of Watch ceremony at Hideaway Beach Club on Marco Island. The Change of Watch is a time-honored tradition for each Auxiliary. It is a formal ritual conducted before an assembled company of members, guests and dignitaries. It restates the continuity of the authority of the watch and transfers total responsibility and authority from one individual to another.
For the new year, Arne Kelsey was re-elected flotilla commander, and will serve with Keith Wohltman as the new vice flotilla commander. Wohltman takes the watch from Harold “Skip” Lee, who served as vice flotilla commander last year.
The ceremony included the Missing Man Table. According to Laurie Harrie, public affairs officer for Flotilla 95, the table is a special element in the ceremony with specific meaning in every detail. The table is round to show everlasting concern for those who still are missing. The white cloth symbolizes purity of the motives when answering the call to duty. A single red rose in a vase reminds all of the live of the missing and their loved ones and friends who keep faith and wait for answers. The vase is tied with a red ribbon, a symbol of continued determination to account for the missing.
A slice of lemon on the bread plate represents the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land. A pinch of salt on the table symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers. The glass is inverted as the missing cannot toast with those at the ceremony. The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope that lives on to guide the missing home, away from their captors and to the open arms of a grateful nation. The American flag serves as a reminder that many may never return and have paid the supreme sacrifice to ensure our freedom. Lastly, the chair is left empty to symbolize the missing.
A quick glance at the last 14 years reveals the important role Flotilla 95 plays in the community. Since 1998, Flotilla 95 members have spent the equivalent of 18 hours a day — that’s 7,000 hours each year — to fulfilling their mission. They have volunteered more than 10,209 operations hours to safety and regatta patrols, search and rescue missions, marine safety visits, marine environmental protection, and operations and administrative support to the U.S. Coast Guard. Also during that time, Flotilla 95’s volunteers have conducted more than 4,200 free vessel safety checks, making sure local boats have the required safety equipment to meet federal, state and local regulations. Finally, they have dedicated more than 6,533 hours in the last 14 years to its public education programs.
Every year, Flotilla 95 also participates in Waterwise at the Greater Marco Family YMCA. Developed by Dottie Weiner of the Y, the program teaches elementary-aged children of Naples and Marco Island the importance of boating and water safety. Flotilla 95 volunteers teach the children how to use a radio, properly wear a life vest, rescue techniques and more.
In 2014, Flotilla 95 will continue these efforts through the following classes:
• Boating Skills and Seamanship (Mondays and Thursdays, 7-9:30 PM, Jan. 13-Feb. 6)
• Boaters Local Knowledge (Monday, Jan. 27, 9 AM-12:30 PM)
• GPS (Wednesday, Jan. 29 and Friday, Jan. 31, 9 AM-12 PM)
• Suddenly in Command (Tuesday, Feb. 11, 9 AM-4 PM)
• Search and Rescue for Local Fire Departments
• Hurricanes and Your Boat
• How to Read a Nautical Chart
• Advanced Coastal Navigation
• Weather for Mariners
• Introduction to Navigation
Additional classes will be held throughout the year, and pre-registration is required. Contact Marian Harris at 239-384-7416 to register. To learn more about the Coast Guard Auxiliary, to volunteer or to become a member, call the Coastguard Auxiliary Station at 239-394-5911