Q&A: Group offers course on boating safety
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary patrol the Connecticut River in 2010.
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Boaters on the Connecticut River Oxbow, with a small raft in tow, pass by a "no-wake" buoy at a brisk pace. This was one of the safety infractions witnessed by a Gazette reporter and photographer during a ride-along on a private boat with Douglas Taylor, Coast Guard Auxiliary vice commander of Flotilla 93, based out of Holyoke. Purchase photo reprints »
John Skura of Ludlow, who is commander with the South Hadley Flotilla of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, says that in his years on the water he has seen many people show an ignorance of the basics of boating safety, from new boaters to people who have been on the water their whole lives.
The auxiliary will hold a safety course to provide boaters with basic guidelines and other information. The course, which starts Monday at the Mosier School in South Hadley, will run 10 weeks from 7 to 9 p.m. The class is free; a $35 textbook will be available for purchase. For more information on the course, call 583-6280 or 533-3325, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to teaching boating safety courses, the flotilla provides free vessel safety checks and patrols the Connecticut River to aid boaters.
The Gazette talked with Skura recently about the course and boating safety.
— KRISTA MANGIARDI
Q: What do people need to know before they head out on the water?
A: Boats are like cars, there are rules that you have to obey. There is a speed limit on the (Connecticut) river. We tell them what they should prepare for — the proper ways of towing your boat to make sure it is balanced, having the proper safety equipment on board that is required by law, and looking for signs of trouble like impending weather. Especially around our area in the springtime, you’ve got trees floating down the river. You can’t go fast, you’ve got to keep a lookout for floating debris.
Q: What are people often not aware of when it comes it boating safety?
A: The main thing we see on the river is overloading. Each boat is designed to handle so much weight, and that includes the engine. We have seen people out there, in the old days especially, and they’ll be carrying pallets of wood so they can go out to the islands and have bonfires. The boat would be very deep in the water. The boat handles different — it’s not safe.
Q: What do you often see going wrong and causing boating accidents?
A: There is nothing you can really put your finger on and say, “That’s the reason there is most accidents.” The common answer is alcohol. Over the years we have noticed that’s decreased. What people don’t realize is that if you get caught operating a boat while intoxicated, it goes against your driver’s license. ... The main thing, though, that we have seen around here is that the last few years there has been a problem with jet skis. They like to jump the wake of larger vessels, and the larger vessel is blocking the view of someone coming the opposite way. There is a chance of a collision there.