The Grapevine Flotilla 5-11 of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is reminding residents of the importance of wearing lifejackets as National Safe Boating Week, May 17–23, nears.
Flotilla 5-11 will begin the observance with an open house at 8 a.m. Saturday at Scott's Landing Marina, located at 2500 Oak Grove, Loop S.
Members will be handing out bottled water and conducting free boat safety checks to help boat owners make sure they have the required and suggested equipment to keep them and their passengers safe. No. 1 on the list is at least one personal flotation device for every person onboard.
A recent drowning on Lake Grapevine involving a kayaker without a personal lifejacket makes the message that much more timely, said Jay Culotta, public affairs officer for the flotilla. That incident, as well as one involving a pair of kayakers without lifejackets rescued a few weeks ago floating in 60-degree water at night, drives the point home.
"(The rescued kayakers) had one 'throwable' flotation cushion and one small cooler," Culotta said. "That's what was keeping them afloat. They had capsized and almost didn't make it because of hypothermia."
He said he can't stress enough how important it is to wear lifejackets, despite the objections some have for wearing them.
"We want to get everyone on the water to wear their lifejackets at all times," Culotta said. "The idea that you have it handy and readily accessible in case of emergency that's really fine, but most accidents, you don't have any warning. You're hit, you hit something, you're overboard. You don't have time to grab that lifejacket. The idea is to wear it at all times. And most people object because they may feel like lifejackets are ugly or bulky, but now they have inflatables that are so easy to wear there is really no legitimate excuse for it."
The importance of lifejackets is the primary focus during National Safe Boating Week, but not the only one. The flotilla's boat exams also help boaters bring their equipment up to standards in the overall effort to increase recreational boating safety.
"They take probably anywhere from 20-30 minutes to do a complete job," Culotta said. "We'll discuss things with people, and make them aware of standards they may not be aware of. It's designed to help them avoid a possible ticket as well as save a life in the event of emergency. There's no penalty if they fail an exam, we just give a checklist of everything an owner needs to work on."
The flotilla routinely offers boating safety classes, and will have two scheduled this summer in June and August. Culotta said the flotilla also offers to teach classes wherever they are needed, if requested.
For more information, to schedule a live vessel safety check or to use the virtual vessel safety check online tool, visit https://gvaux.com.