ABCs of safe boating lead to good decisions

Bad decisions. That is frequently the reason a sunny day in a boat on the water turns into an emergency.

In nearly 30 years as a division of watercraft officer in the Ohio Department of  Natural Resources, Mike Westrick has seen loads of bad decisions.

“It had been a sunny afternoon in early spring,” said Westrick. “Then four young men found themselves hanging onto tree branches in swift water on the Scioto River.”

Their canoes capsized and then they were in frigid water without life jackets.

“Bad decision after bad decision,” said Westrick, who will teach a five-week safe boating course in Bay Village starting May 22.

“They probably had a little too much bravado to see the danger, but the danger was certainly there. They were inexperienced paddlers who did not understand the flooded river brings swift water and they did not have proper equipment. They were lucky they were in an area where a rescue team was available.”

Westrick, a graduate of Ohio State University, has been a volunteer instructor and chief of education courses for the Rocky River chapter of the U. S. Power Squadron for several years. 

The group is sponsoring the boating safety course on Thursday nights, May 22 to June 19, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the community room at the Bay Village Police Department, 28000 Wolf Road. The cost is $46 for the course, textbook and all materials. A second family member can take the course for $20 by sharing the text and materials.

Persons who complete the course and a short exam will receive a state-approved certificate to allow them to legally operate a power boat or jet ski. Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1982, must have the certificate to operate a watercraft with a motor larger than 10 horsepower. The certificate is honored in 50 states. They will also receive a nationally-recognized certificate from the Power Squadron that frequently leads to discounts on boat insurance.

The U.S Power Squadron is a nonprofit organization in the U.S. and Canada with about 40,000 members in 400 chapters. The group offers classes in cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The class to be taught by Westrick is called America’s Boating Course (ABC). It’s an overview of types of sail and power boats, boating laws, equipment, safe boating practices, navigation and problems that might be encountered by boaters.

Westrick retired from the ODNR after working at Alum Creek, Buckeye Lake and other waterways in central Ohio.

Ohio records show that there were 161 boating accidents and 11 deaths in 2012. The incidents accounted for nearly $800,000 in damage to boats and $40,000 in damage to other property. In Cuyahoga County, there were 12 accidents with more than $100,000 in damage. There were no deaths in 2012 in Cuyahoga County, but there were three in Lorain County.

To register or for more information about ABC or other Power Squadron courses, contact Westrick at 440-347-0990 or email him at mwestrick06@oh.rr.com.

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Volume 6, Issue 10, Posted 9:57 AM, 05.13.2014