Friday, September 18, 2020

Boating Safety Starts Early

Students with their MISP safe boating instructors. Submitted Photos

Students with their MISP safe boating instructors. Submitted Photos

On a recent Saturday morning, six children, ages 8 to 14, attended Marco Island Sail and Power Squadron’s (MISP) firstever class for young children, taught by current Commander Rhonda Gloodt and past Commanders Peggy and Ted Reiss. Junior member Joey Puell was also a presenter with a real life experience to convey. Fourteen-year-old Joey had his leg severely cut by a boat propeller as he entered the water from a boat. This was preventable, like most accidents, had the motor been turned off prior to discharging passengers. Joey’s story resonated with the young crowd and brought boating safety very close to home, setting the stage for an attentive two hours of classroom instruction.

Young boaters were provided with a properly fitted life jacket.

Young boaters were provided with a properly fitted life jacket.

Students learned the importance of the marine VHF radio. Hands-on experience helped them understand how to handle “squelch” on the radio, how to find the weather forecast channel, and most importantly, how to send emergency transmissions for assistance. While they were very familiar with mobile phones, they learned that those devices were limited in emergencies, as they only reach the party called. A VHF radio call reaches everyone in the area, as well as the Coast Guard. They learned how to make a distress call (by pressing the RED distress button) which contacts the Coast Guard directly. The students learned that channel 16 is used to announce MAYDAY situations. They then practiced using VHF radios and pretended to make emergency calls for help, preparing them for an experience that hopefully they will never encounter.

Students learned to identify their location on the water using GPS and understanding a little about latitude and longitude. The lesson is that knowing your location will assist rescuers in finding you expeditiously in an emergency. The students engaged in discussions about identifying and noting markers to help in recovery – aids to navigation (ATONS) – the red and green markers in the waterways – as well as onshore landmarks such as tall buildings, towers, etc.

Using the concept of an anchor with its chain links the students engaged in a final exercise of learning the 15 DO’s and DON’T’S of safe boating. They made links with each Do and DON’T a link connected into a chain of safe boating concepts.

A discussion was held about what to do in the event of an accident or other problem at sea. The first thing they learned to do is to DROP ANCHOR. The very next or even simultaneous action is to be sure everyone is secure in a well-fitted personal safety device (life jacket). Keeping the boat in one spot with everyone safely secured in flotation devices saves lives. Then make the distress call so the Coast Guard or nearby boats can more easily come to your rescue knowing your exact location.

The class had one final lesson – everyone including Mom and Dad should wear their life preservers! There was an exercise to assure proper fitting of the jackets and a reminder that even the pet dog needs a life jacket. To reinforce this lesson and the entire experience each student received a certificate of course completion and a free and properly fitted life jacket to wear on their next boating experience.

Any child who boats should be exposed to the basics of boating safety, and MISP is pleased to offer our knowledge, experience and best abilities to better assure safe boating for all of us.

For more information about the MISP visit www.marcoislandsailandpowersquadron.org or call 239-393-0150.

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