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Classes help make boating safer
Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla Cmdr. Don Wellons does not want to see any boaters require rescue, especially after an incident that could have been prevented.

That is why he hopes to see more people enroll in one of the auxiliary's boating safety courses this year in Brunswick.

"We offer these courses often and we sometimes have very poor attendance," Wellons said.

The fuller each class is, the safer Glynn County's waterways will be as temperatures warm and boaters hit the water, Wellons said.

That day is just around the corner.

David Lawrence, a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, knows this well. He moved to the Golden Isles from Minnesota, where he spent a lot of time boating on lakes in the state.

Boating in coastal estuaries and the ocean is nothing like boating in a lake, Lawrence said.

"There are so many more hazards to be aware of here," Lawrence said.

Larger waves, stronger currents, tidal changes and sandbars are all aspects of saltwater boating that can create unpredictable scenarios.

Being well prepared is the best prevention to stop a bad situation from getting worse, Lawrence said.

Before going out this spring, Lawrence suggests attending the first of several free vessel safety inspections the auxiliary will hold this year on Saturday at either Morningstar Marina or Oak Grove Island Marina to ensure boats are properly equipped for the water.

"With all of the tributaries and creeks, navigation is a big issue as well," Lawrence said.

Safety classes teach boaters how to navigate the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, how to handle boats in all conditions and what to do in an emergency, among other things, Lawrence said.

Classes are also good for kayakers and canoeists as well, he added.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources ranger Sgt. Mark Carson said his organization also will be offering safety courses, starting April 30 and running through May 2.

Knowing how to properly handle certain situations is paramount to ensuring the safety of everyone on the water, Carson said.

"There are no stop signs or center lines out on the water. It is not like driving a car," Carson said.

Students of the state's boating safety course will learn much of the same information taught in the Coast Guard class, including things like always steering to the right of other vessels, Carson said.

He will also encourage all boaters to wear life jackets when their boat is moving. Currently all children under 10 are required to wear life jackets, but that law will soon be changing to raise the age limit to 12, Carson said.

"The main thing we want to stress is for everybody to wear a life jacket," Carson said. "There are jackets out there that are comfortable for everyone."

He also wants everyone to be aware of drinking and boating laws. Rangers can give a boating under the influence citation to anyone with a blood alcohol level of .10, but that will soon drop to .08,, the same limit for driving an automobile.

* Reporter Michael Hall writes about public safety, environment and other local topics. Contact him at mhall@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 320.

Breakout:

For more information, including dates and prices for boater safety courses taught by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, visit www.cgauxssi.us or call Arlene Ingram at 268-4532.

For more information on boater safety courses taught by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, call 264-7237.



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