For members of U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 12-2 in Tellico Village, teaching boating safety and best practices is a key part of the job.
“The Coast Guard Auxiliary has as one of its main objectives boater education with the intent to improve skills and boater safety and the proper equipping of the boat,” Bill Fink, a class instructor for the flotilla, said.
The effort this boating season begins Feb. 22 with a class on paddle sports, kicking off a 12-class schedule that runs through early October.
“Paddle boats and kayaks and canoes … are vessels on the water and have the same legal requirements and safety and rules requirements as any other vessel on the water,” Fink said.
Classes range with topics such as pontoon boat safety, cold water boating and GPS instruction.
In recent years, classes have been specifically tailored to topics relevant to the local community, Dennis Beard, public education officer for the Flotilla, said.
“Our courses are varied enough they might capture the interest of somebody that might take one Coast Guard Auxiliary course and they’ll come back to take another,” Beard said. “... I’m seeing people that maybe would take an About Boating Safely certificate course, and then next year they’ll want to take the GPS for Tennessee boaters because we have a different spin on the education.”
The About Boating Safely course is one of the most popular because it provides certification that can be used to qualify for a discount on private boating insurance. The class is held three times annually and is planned this year for March 27 and 29, May 22 and 24, and Sept. 25 and 27.
“Our public education classes are heavily subscribed,” Fink said. “The About Boating Safely class, which we offer three times over the year, will typically have 20-30 students that sign up. We have another class for spouses called Now in Command, which is another class we instruct for women only … that teaches what to do in the case of emergency where a captain may be disabled or go overboard. That’s a very popular class.”
Classes are generally filled with newcomers to Tellico Village or Rarity Bay, which is a segment of the population Beard believes strives to do what is best when taking to the water.
“The people that come to Tellico Village or Rarity Bay, they have that nature that they’re always trying to learn something, and if they’re going to do something they’re going to do it right,” Beard said. “… They’re the type of people that they want to get that extra training.
“Most of the public, they don’t have a clue as to what the rules of the road are on the water, and frankly a lot of them don’t care,” he added. “That’s not true of the Telco Village people. They do care, and they do want to learn.”
The Flotilla will also offer free inspections of water vessels throughout the year at various marinas in Tellico Village and beyond.
“We’ll have schedules as to what days during the week we would be at which dock here within the Tellico Village marina system, and we encourage anyone who couldn’t meet us during the regular inspection cycle they can call me or someone they know, and we can do a one-on inspection,” Beard said. “It’s a totally free inspection and also an opportunity … to talk to the individual about their boat and instill safe boating practices.”
Keeping boaters safe on the water is something members of the flotilla take seriously. For Fink, the opportunity to teach is a joy, and something he jumps at the chance to do.
“This is one of the most important things that I do in the auxiliary,” Fink said. “Last year I had 80 hours of training time where I was instructing the public or some of our internal members as well. I have a long, happy and loving relationship with boating, and this is a chance for me to share the knowledge I’ve gained over many years.”