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Longboat Harbour Yacht Club preps boaters for emergencies

New club commodores partner with the Coast Guard to teach residents what to do when disaster strikes on the water.

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The Longboat Harbour Yacht Club is taking all measures to ensure the safety of its members.

New Commodore Jeff Hecklau and Vice Commodore John Harkness have collaborated with the U.S. Coast Guard on a boating safety education series for Longboat Harbour Yacht Club members.

The first class, "Suddenly In Command," took place on Jan. 11 at the Longboat Harbour Recreation Center with around 60 attendees. USCG Flotilla Commander Peter Russell and Flotilla Service Officer John Ashcraft led the class.

“The Coast Guard Auxiliary actually has a fleet of volunteers that patrol the waters,” said Hecklau. “They do boat inspections and all sorts of different things. They also have an education group that does classes. This first class called 'Suddenly In Command' is specifically if the skipper of the boat becomes incapacitated for any reason: they fall overboard, they're having a heart attack or a stroke, whatever it might be. What does the person who's with them do if they aren’t an experienced boater?”

Peter Russell teaching "Suddenly in Command" at Longboat Harbour.
Courtesy image

“Suddenly In Command” covered the basics that boating beginners need to know if they are in an emergency situation like this, such as using a boat radio, calling for help, using a chart to plot a course.

“(The class) was a very well thought out, informative presentation,” said resident Tony Pupo. “We never think about worst-case scenarios like this, and now we are prepared. Everything was covered from the type of radio and distress signals to have onboard to designating a person to be in charge. This was an evening well spent for our families and our community.”

The Coast Guard plans to host a full boat safety class in March that will help people get their boating safety certification, which helps lower people’s insurance costs. On the morning of Jan. 20, the Coast Guard plans to host a boat and kayak inspection to make sure that all boats are up to date on safety protocols.

Other future classes will include knot tying and kayak and paddleboard safety. Most classes are free of charge for Yacht Club members, except for the boater certification class. Hecklau said that they were interested in exploring safety and education topics relating to sailing as well. 

Peter Russell teaching "Suddenly in Command" at Longboat Harbour.
Courtesy image

“The message of this class for other communities is that the Coast Guard is absolutely willing to run a similar program. It is the perfect collaboration to ensure safety on our docks,” said Hecklau.

This series is the first order of business under the new commodores' term, which began Jan. 1. The new leadership will be recognized with a “change of watch” ceremony on Jan. 20, which is an annual tradition for the yacht club.

“Whether it be kayaks, paddleboards, sailboats or motor boats, our No. 1 goal is their safety, and also the safety of the harbor and our community as a whole,” said Hecklau. “For instance, we're doing that knot-tying class in a couple of weeks. If a boat is not tied up correctly, it certainly could endanger that particular boat, but if it gets loose, it could damage other boats. It could sink and cause an environmental problem, which would then go down a whole different path. Our goal is always safety of boaters, first and then safety of our facilities and our boats themselves.”



Petra Rivera

Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.

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