Boat safety: Practice it everywhere, all year
You step outside on your porch, and a crisp breeze brushes through your hair.
It’s a beautiful, summer day – the kind of day you might want to spend out on the open water.
Today continues National Safe Boating Week – an annual program led by the National Safe Boating Council.
The week started on Saturday and will end on Friday.
“This week is the official launch of the North American Safe Boating Campaign. This year-long campaign promotes safe and responsible boating,” according to Rachel Johnson, council executive director.
Area officials also encourage and practice year-long safety.
Safety across sea
Barry Sroka of Aiken has been an American Sailing Association instructor since 2001 and an instructor evaluator since 2006.
Late last year, he was sent to China to certify three schools.
One reason was because the schools wanted the international recognition the Association provides, Sroka said.
He visited a school in Dalian, one in Shanghai and one in Xiamen.
“They have to have certain mandates before I get there,” Sroka said.
Some of those mandates include efficient offices, classrooms and well-maintained boats.
“They had great boats,” Sroka recalled.
He evaluated the schools in Dalian and in Shanghai.
When he went to Xiamen, though, Sroka was asked to do a bit more.
There were seven sailors who wanted to become American Sailing Association-certified instructors.
With the help of a translator, Sroka and his class went through written tests and reviewing charts.
The tests were converted to Mandarin but the charts stayed in English.
“I had to go out sailing with them,” Sroka said. “These seven guys were a hoot ... and were extremely great sailors.”
Sroka also reviewed the students’ teaching abilities.
“They all took turns doing straight presentations,” Sroka recalled. “I told them that wasn’t going to work.”
There needed to be interplay between the class and teachers, Sroka further explained to his students.
“In their culture, there’s the instructor, and then there’s the student,” he said. “There is no interaction.”
After some efforts, Sroka broke this traditional structure.
“When they got warmed up, they started having fun,” he said. “We had a great time.”
The American Sailing Association is just one organization that advocates boat safety.
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is another example, according to Jim McMenamin of the Auxiliary’s CSRA chapter.
“Public Education is one of the key activities of the Coast Guard Auxiliary,” according to its website.
Some basic tips McMenamin offers include:
• Take a boat safety class. Both organizations offer them.
• Before you go out on the water, make sure your boat is well-equipped. This means it has a working radio, a navigation system (maps, GPS), emergency signals (flairs, pennants) and fitted life-jackets.
• Study the chart of the area beforehand. This will help you familiarize yourself with the area’s hazards and its general layout.
• Check the weather. If a storm is expected, try to stay out of the water until it is expected to pass.
• Make a float plan. This emergency plan should include the basics of your trip – like when are you leaving, where are you going and how long you expect to be gone. This plan should be given to someone on shore, just in case something happens while you are at sea.
• Take a cell phone, if possible. Regardless, turn your boat’s radio to Channel 16 – the emergency frequency.
• Take another person with you. This person can help look out for impending dangers, for other boats, etc.
• If bad weather does strike, find a cove and wait it out.
For more information on National Safe Boating Week, visit www.safeboatingcouncil.org.
For more information on American Sailing Association, visit www.asa.com.
For more information on the CSRA chapter of U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, visit www.a0700201.uscgaux.info.
Stephanie Turner graduated from Valdosta State University in 2012. She then signed on with the Aiken Standard, where she is now the arts and entertainment reporter.