One of my neighbors, Herb Gates, was sworn in as the Commander of the Swansboro Flotilla of the Coast Guard Auxiliary on January 4. I recently had an opportunity to talk to him about the Coast Guard operation in Emerald Isle, and thought you might be interested in what I learned.
The Swansboro Coast Guard Station has three Coast Guard boats, and 16 members of the Coast Guard assigned to the station. They are supplemented by 6 boats belonging to Auxiliarists that are operated by certified Auxiliary coxswains. The local Coast Guard station is responsible for the Intracoastal Waterway, from Gales Creek to Surf City, and offshore through Bogue Inlet. The station is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary supports the Coast Guard in many ways. They help with search and rescue, educating the public, performing free boat safety checks, patrolling for boaters needing assistance, checking out buoys and markers, checking marina facilities for cleanliness and pollution, etc.
As you can imagine with a search and rescue, there is usually a very large area to search, and having experienced boaters, familiar with Coast Guard procedures is a tremendous help. When a search is necessary, members of the Auxiliary are asked to report, and they are assigned specific duties, such as an area to search etc. The Coast Guard coordinates the overall search effort, and the search can be for a relatively short period of time or for days.
The Auxiliary spends a great deal of time dealing with boating safety to help reduce the number of instances where a search might be needed. They will often be at boat ramps in the area performing free inspections for boating safety. Boaters that pass the inspection get a sticker to put on their boat, indicating that the boat has passed an inspection by the Auxiliary. The inspection gives the boat owner the comfort of knowing they have not overlooked a safety issue.
The local Auxiliary also conducts boating safety classes at the local Coast Guard Station. The next session will start in February. Please call Fred Clemons (393-7627) or Vinnie Bonanno (354-7947) for the exact dates. The classes are good for people that are thinking about buying a boat, as well as for experienced boat owners. Boating is generally a lot of fun, but when you find yourself in a tough situation, you will be glad you spent the time in the class.
Lastly, the Auxiliary is always looking for new members. Experienced boaters, as well as inexperienced boaters are welcome. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities that involve being on the water, and tasks that do not involve being on the water. All it takes is a willingness to learn and serve. Many volunteers live in the area, but others come from as far as Raleigh. The volunteers from out of the area usually perform some task that lasts for one or two days, and often times they sleep at the Coast Guard station. If you are interested in learning more about the Auxiliary, please call the Coast Guard Station (354-2719), and they will put you in touch with the correct individual.
I want to thank the Coast Guard and the Auxiliary for all that they do to make boating a pleasurable and hopefully safe experience, and to encourage individuals to join the Auxiliary. As George Bush Sr. said "There is no definition of a successful life that does not include some form of volunteerism".