Coast Guard timely reminder of need for life jackets

US Coast Guard Auxiliary members Ashley Hill and Justin Wright go over a safety checklist with boater Jon Bak.

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IPSWICH – Just weekends before pulling five people without life jackets from the water, Officer Matt Bodwell was assisting the US Coast Guard Auxiliary with boat and safety inspections at Town Wharf.

Coming shortly after a double drowning on the Merrimack River, Ipswich Flotilla Commander Brian Shaw was keen to stress the importance of life jackets. “It hits us all hard when something like this happens,” he said of the tragedy.

But the Coast Guard had more in mind during the inspections than flotation devices. In about 15 minutes, they went through a checklist that included navigation lights, fire extinguishers and distress signals.

No penalties were issued that day, but boaters were told how to improve the safety of their vessels in the event of a failure. Passing boats received a security sticker. Those who failed were given homework. They were also asked to schedule a new test as the auxiliaries offered to visit homes and check ships in the aisles.

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“We are not stopping anyone from going out. We just help them with information,” Shaw said.

In addition to the audits, auxiliary members were provided with a number of safety flyers and a display rack. “We’re big on paddle boat safety,” Shaw said.

Another feature the group offers is a sticker that people can write their phone numbers on. That way, if a canoe or paddle board is found unattended, authorities can call before initiating a missing person search.

Noting that searches can cost tens of thousands of dollars, Shaw said, “A 50-cent sticker makes a huge difference.”

Another piece of safety equipment now required by law is an engine cut-off switch, he added.

“Also called a ‘safety lanyard’ or ‘engine kill switch,’ an engine cut-off switch is designed to stop a boat’s engine if the operator is thrown from the helm,” the website said. of the Coast Guard.

Shaw recalled a serious boating accident in July 2020 in which a young man was thrown from his boat in Plum Island Sound. The boat continued to circle in the water and overturned him, causing him fatal injuries.

Having his boat inspected as the incident was recounted, Ipswich resident Jon Bak said: ‘It kind of woke everyone up.

Bak’s inspection was handled by Coast Guard Auxiliary members Ashley Hill and Justin Wright, who is the vice commander of 3 Division.

Bak was close but did not receive a sticker at the time, as he had no flares or distress signals. Eager to pass, he postponed his launch and instead went to the hardware store to collect the missing items.

Shaw said the safety checklist also means peace of mind for boaters that they could be on the water and subject to checks by the Massachusetts Environmental Police or the Coast Guard. “If arrested, they will not be sent home or fined,” he noted. “There are certain offenses that end your day.”

As for Bodwell, he dealt with one where the day hasn’t even started. A man showed up with an unregistered jet ski and was told he couldn’t take off.

All motorboats must be registered, according to the state’s website. This can be done in person or by mail, the website says, which means there are no weekends on the water for a jet skier.


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