TRIADELPHIA - With summer just around the corner, members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary Wheeling Chapter are preparing to help Ohio Valley residents get ready for a safe season of boating.
The auxiliary, in conjunction with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, is scheduled to hold a safe boating class at 9 a.m. May 17 at Cabela's meeting room at the Highlands. The class is free and open to the public as part of Safe Boating Week.
Auxiliary member Tim Miller said the group's mission is to assist the Coast Guard with marine safety on the Ohio River. While the auxiliary cannot issue citations, it can help boaters become compliant with rules and regulations - especially when it comes to children and life vest use.
SAFETY WATCH — Coast Guard Auxiliary Wheeling Detachment members, from left, Tim Miller, Luke Haskakis, Todd Sherman and Steven Miro stand aboard Miller’s boat at the Rayland Marina.
-- Shelley Hanson
"'Wear it' is our motto. We push everyone to wear life jackets," Miller said.
He noted the majority of drownings related to boating happen because the person was not wearing a life vest. Many people think just having a vest available on the boat is enough, but Miller said when a disaster strikes one doesn't have time to put on the device. The life jacket should already be on, he said.
In addition to life vest use for adults and children, the auxiliary will teach boaters about other laws. They can also have their boats checked.
"A lot of people don't realize in Ohio if you were born after Jan. 1, 1982, and in West Virginia if you were born after Dec. 31, 1986, you are required to have a safe boating course before you can operate a boat legally on waterways," Miller said.
Another law many don't know about, he added, is that no one younger than 16 years old can use personal watercrafts, such as Jet Skis or Ski-Doos.
"We will have vessel examiners there - people can bring their boats in," Miller said.
And to entertain the children, Coastie the Safety Boat will be on hand.
"He is 4 feet long. He talks to kids and looks like tug boat. They love that - they get kick out of that. It's a pretty fun time," Miller said.
The Wheeling Detachment's patrol area spans from Hannibal to New Cumberland. Along with boating safety, members also help maintain safety areas and traffic on the river during events such as the Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta and the Wheeling Heritage Port Sternwheel Festival.
Coast Guard Auxiliaries purchase their own work and dress uniforms and use their own vessels while volunteering. Members must be at least 17 years old and be able to pass a background check and a physical test. Members can volunteer as often as they wish. For information, call auxiliary member Luke Haskakis at (740) 859-2736.