Honolulu Star Bulletin 08/30/03
By Ray Pendleton
Last Friday I was watching sailors in the Ala Wai getting ready for the start of the evening's "beer-can" race to the Honolulu Harbor buoy and back.
With the sun dropping low in the west and our warm trade winds filling dozens of sails, the scene was a beautiful postcard setting. Then suddenly, something looked wrong.
As I watched, a sailboat cast off from the dock with several adults and children aboard, and the children -- all preteens -- weren't wearing life vests.
Not only was that vessel's skipper putting young lives at risk, but he could have been fined in excess of $3,000.
According to the Coast Guard's new rule that went into effect at the end of last year, "the penalties for a boat operator who fails to have all children under the age of 13 wear a life jacket are similar to those for failing to have a sufficient number of life jackets aboard. Fines may be assessed up to a maximum of $1,100 for each violation."
The new rule was created to address the problem of boating-related childhood drownings. In the U.S., between 1995 and 2001, 210 children under the age of 13 died while boating -- 121 of them by drowning.
So, how was the skipper to know about this new rule? Well, one way would be to have enrolled in either the Coast Guard Auxiliary's or the Honolulu Sail and Power Squadron's safe boating class.
As sure as the changing of the seasons, these courses are offered every spring and fall, and this year is no exception.
The class descriptions for each organization's course are somewhat similar, and both begin on Sept. 8 and extend over a seven-week period. Still, there are some differences between the two.
The Auxiliary's classes are held at Kalaheo High School in Kailua on Mondays and Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and cost $45 by pre-registering.
The Sail and Power Squadron's classes are held at the Waikiki Yacht Club in Ala Moana Park from 7 to 9 on Monday evenings only, and there is just a $25 charge for instruction materials.
And, while the Squadron's classes require fewer hours, they prepare students for additional free classes, such as their Weather Course given by Hawaii's "Weather Guy," Rick Shema, that will begin on Sept. 9.
Most importantly though, whichever course is chosen, there is no question students will learn the safe boating practices every recreational boater should know.
Both courses will teach a curriculum that begins with basic boating terminology, along with hull design and construction, to help future boat owners understand what boat type may best suit their needs.
The courses then lead students through the fundamentals of seamanship, i.e., boating necessities such as knot-tying, casting off and docking, anchoring, refueling and courtesies while under way.
Significant class time is also devoted to trailer boat operations, maneuvering and vehicle requirements.
Other subjects covered in the courses include boating's Rules of the Road, aids to navigation (and basic navigation itself), local, state and federal boating laws, marine weather, communications, and emergency procedures.
Anyone interested in attending these classes should contact either the Auxiliary at 234-6916, or the Squadron at 395-5080 for the safe boating class, and 728-0114 for the Weather Course.
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