U.S. Coast Guard Auxilary to offer boat safety training

Additional trainings are on the agenda for the year

U.S. Coast Auxiliary is offering their first boat safety training course to the community post COVID closures. The course is titled “Suddenly in Command” and will address issues that may arise on the water requiring someone other than the captain or skipper to confidently take command of the vessel and navigate a safe return to harbor.

This four-hour class is designed to teach basic operating principles such as steering, shifting, setting an anchor, giving a mayday call if there is an emergency or simply turning the engine off.

In an email to the Homer News, Joe Gentle, member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, who will instruct the training course, said the class will ready passengers with a working knowledge of emergency communications, basic navigation and boat handling, as well as an overview of equipment legally required aboard a vessel.

Gentle said it is important to provide a checklist of where emergency equipment is located onboard before travel commences. He also mentioned the benefit of training drills such as what to do if a person goes overboard or if a fire starts.

The course will include props such as a radio and how to key the microphone.

“We’ll talk about float plans and the importance of making sure that folks on land know where you’re going for the day and when you intend to return and how many people might be on-board. Tell someone if you’re not back by X day or X time, that they should issue a call for help,” Gentle said.

Several weeks ago the Auxiliary group, the Homer Yacht Club and the Rescue 21 organization did a test run of the course.

“We had about 20 people participate and it was a good trial run for us and a good refresher course for those folks. These are the kinds of things that people don’t think about all the time. People brought family members and their kids and they got to think about some things that they don’t usually consider because they’ve been fortunate to have never been in an emergency situation before,” Gentle said.

Other types of training will be available over the next year as members of the local U.S. Auxiliary extend their services. Some of these will be available simply by webinar.

Gentle refers to one titled “Basic Boating Safety,” a two-hour course that they are considering offering over the winter before the summer season starts next year. Another eight-hour course is called “Boat America,” which leads to a certification that might be required to lease boats in certain harbors in the country, Gentle said.

Laurie Gentle, volunteer with the Auxiliary, listed some other community members who might benefit from the “Boat America” training: people who are coming to the Kenai Peninsula to lease a boat to go fishing or active Coast Guard members who need a certification to use their liberty and morale boat.

One more course the Auxiliary is looking at offering next spring is a 13-lesson course, which equates to about four weeks of training, called “Boating Skills and Seamanship.”

“Boating Skills and Seamanship is a truly comprehensive course. It starts with identifying features of the boat from hull to stern, how to look at a compass, how to read a GPS and a chart, how to accomplish basic navigation. We learn about weather, tides, currents,” Joe Gentle said.

“We learn about just about every situation that might occur for power boaters. This one does cost a little more, comes with manual and includes a required test at the end. So, if anyone is interested in that, we’ll be looking at offering it the community sometime this year.”

Craig Forrest, also engaged in the discussion, mentioned that there is also a “Sailing Skills and Seamanship” component available that requires a few more classes.

“Suddenly in Command” will take place Aug. 26 from 1-5 p.m. at the Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Building (MSD) next to Nomar on Pioneer Avenue. The cost is $20 per person or $30 per boating pair. Youth 14 and under are free. Space for the course is limited. To pre-register contact Joe Gentle at joe.p.gentle@gmail.com.