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Life-jacket effort aims to promote boating safety

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Published:   |   Updated: May 18, 2013 at 04:48 PM
TAMPA -

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in Tampa stood on dry land Saturday and, on a count of three, pulled the cords on their inflatable lifejackets.

They applauded as the plastic devices ballooned around their necks in less than five seconds.

“If you’re nice to me, I’ll let you know how to deflate them,” said Tim Teahan, the flotilla commander for the auxiliary.

The efforts of the Coast Guardsmen from Division Seven, based at 5108 Gandy Blvd., will be counted toward an attempted world-recording breaking tally for the number of lifejackets inflated in one day.

Seven auxiliary members in Tampa inflated the devices; thousands more across the nation and the world were expected to organize similar events to raise awareness of boating safety, Teahan said.

The auxiliary had another 11 people participate by wearing other kinds of lifejackets or floatation devices.

There were 3,993 participants last year in 128 locations across the United States, according to the National Safe Boating Council, which created the Ready Set Wear It event in 2010.

There also were seven events last year in Canada, one event in Mexico, one in Brazil, six in Japan and three in Australia contributing to the 2012 inflatable lifejacket tally.

“We would’ve been happy with 20 lifejackets,” he said. “But this is the start of National Safe Boating Week. We’re here to promote safe boating.”

Auxiliary members spent most of Saturday providing complimentary safety checks for boaters pulling up at the Gandy Boulevard boat ramp.

“We want to make sure they have the required safety equipment,” Teahan said. “It’s a common sense approach. Make sure you have enough life jackets for all on board, have a fire extinguisher, working navigation lights, a radio and any device that makes sounds, like a horn.”

Chuck Willis of Valrico allowed auxiliary members to conduct a safety check on his 23-foot vessel.

Willis had everything he needed, including four lifejackets, an inflatable buoy he can throw, fire extinguishers and flares.

He said he has not needed to use any of the safety devices, but likes being prepared.

“I’ve been boating for 20-plus years,” Willis said. “Boating can be risky, especially if there’s a lot of boaters out on the water.”

Willis said Saturday was the eighth time he has gone boating since the weather warmed up. He usually fishes, but was planning to do not much of anything Saturday.

“We’re just going to go on a little trip around the Gulf,” he said.

Cliff Martin, operations officer for the auxiliary, said participating in the event and informing people about boating safety is something he and his colleagues do every year.

“Half the time, people forget to put on a lifejacket,” Martin said. “They don’t think they need it, especially if they’re involved in another activity, like fishing. They think they’re cumbersome. But it’s necessary.”


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