Education Before Enforcement

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - May 18, 2011
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Coastie the robotic boat was a hit at the YMCA Healthy Kids Day at Bishop Museum. Photo courtesy Sterling Lau

Education is a powerful tool, especially when it comes to saving lives.

It is a concept the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary believes in - a volunteer organization dedicated to promoting boating safety through education and vessel safety checks. Its mission also includes promoting environmental safety and security of people, ports and waterways as directed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

“We support this overall mission by striving to improve the quality and delivery of our safe boating educational programs to the community,” says D14 Coast Guard Auxiliary District staff officer Sterling Lau. “We also do this in partnership with other like-minded organizations to improve the overall knowledge of the boating public and increase awareness of safety on the water.”

Lau knows this type of education is a never-ending effort that also touches those who don’t think of themselves as boaters, including shore fishermen, water skiers, water craft operators and even some hunters. He says most know “little or nothing about required safety procedures in a small boat or what to do in emergency situation.”


He adds, most people seldom take boating classes and don’t read boating magazines.

“They must be reached through the media with which they are familiar, like this newspaper,” says Lau. “So, yes, it’s a never-ending effort but well appreciated by any individual or family who has been able to survive a close call at sea because of something small they remembered in an article they read.”

The recent death of a 22-year-old University of Hawaii student off Lanikai Beach is a chilling reminder that ocean safety education must continue. Sione Lefao, a cadet of the UH-Manoa Army ROTC program, was kayaking with friends to the Mokulua Islands when a wave swept him off some rocks. It was a rainy day with high surf on the east shore of Oahu. Fire rescue crews found his body a day later in the ocean about 100 yards off the Mokulua Islands.

National Safe Boating Week is from May 21 to 27. The Coast Guard Auxiliary will sponsor Recreational Boating Safety events in partnership with DLNR, DOBOR and the Sea Scouts Program on Oahu:

May 22, Hawaii Kai, Maunalua Boat Ramp, 1 to 4 p.m., free vessel safety checks, DLNR demonstration.

May 21, Waianae Boat Harbor, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Coastie demonstration, recreational boating safety exhibit, Sea Scouts, DLNR demo, King of Knots, life-saving line toss, free vessel safety checks.

May 21, Pier 38, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Pacific Ocean Products, recreational boating safety exhibit.


Lau says a simple guide for boaters, which can easily be committed to memory, is known as the Four Principles of Safe Boating: wearing life jackets save lives, boater education saves lives, safe boats save lives, and safe and sober boating saves lives.

“Unfortunately, crisis and tragedy on the water speaks volumes, and is regularly reported in newscasts and newspapers,” says Lau. “The causes are usually something simple, like not wearing a life jacket, or not being prepared for equipment failure.”

Lau is one of more than 31,000 volunteers who give an estimated 4.5 million volunteer hours to the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard Auxiliary conducts 16,000 public education sessions and 2,800 boating safety courses annually. Volunteers do not enforce laws, but they are credited with saving 800 lives and assisting 13,000 people in distress every year. Every member of the Auxiliary must take instruction and pass a boating course to be deemed basically qualified.

“The good news is that a little bit of knowledge can go a long way,” says Lau. “It does not cost very much for a boater to enjoy a beautiful day on the water and return home safely to savor the day’s adventure.”

The District 14 Auxiliary is presently building its membership. For more information, contact Michelle Cartier (Hawaii Kai), 255-1348 or email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or Jerry Mershon (Waianae), 778-5738.

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