U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers vessel safety inspections
SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary wants to keep boating-related accidents to a minimum. They are using this week as National Safe Boating Week to promote vessel safety checks. With the unofficial start to boating season coming up next week with Memorial Day, the Coast Guard believes these safety inspections will save lives. It is a mission of the Coast Guard Auxiliary to protect boaters traveling in inland waterways. The auxiliary is a 25,000 volunteer member support system for the Coast Guard. In our region, auxiliary members help ensure safety of local lakes including South Holston, Boone, and Watauga. "The bottom line is we want people to be safe, knowledgeable, and equipped to have a great time on the water," Vice Lieutenant Commander of the Quad Cities Flotilla Bill Smith said. One of their primary activities is conducting boat safety checks. During an inspection, they check for required and recommended items on board. That inspection includes looking for things like life jackets, fire extinguishers, and first-aid kits. Smith said, "8 out of every 10 drowning deaths, when it comes to the boating environment and the water environment, the person was not wearing a life jacket." Inspectors with the auxiliary are not permitted to give citations, but rather recommendations on what can be improved. Michael Morgan has been spending the past seven or eight years of retirement with a boat on South Holston Lake. "It's sailing, just motoring around a little bit when there's no wind, fishing, a little eating, that's what you do on the lake," Morgan said. Morgan shared that he has had a few friends die in water-related incidents. He said he is now extremely cautious in making sure everything on board is up to standard. That is also why members of the auxiliary say they check about 100 to 150 boats year-round, but wish they were asked do more. "The tools that you have on board, and I look at them as tools, are those kinds of tools that would keep you safe in several different types of emergencies," Smith said. The Coast Guard Auxiliary also recommends taking a boater safety course. There will be two classes offered this week by the Tri-Cities Boating Club on Tuesday and Thursday. The classes will be in the library at Northeast State Community College beginning at 5:30 each of those days.