From left to right, Pat McAlvey and Tony O'Reilly.

By Elliott Seda

In 2018, the U.S. Coast Guard released its annual report, titled ‘2018 Recreational Boating Statistics,’ which stated, “Where cause of death was known, 77% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 84% were not wearing a life jacket.”

It also stated that, as it related to boating instruction, 74 percent of deaths had occurred on boats where the operator had not received boating safety instructions, but only 18 percent were on boats where the operator had received a nationally-approved boating safety certificate.

After detailed analysis, the Coast Guard expanded its focus on boating safety instruction to include not only adults, but children as well. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary has also been part of this instructional focus. On November 21, members of the Auxiliary, Flotilla 75, Apollo Beach, participated in the Great American Teach-In.

Auxiliarists Pat McAlvey, Tony O’Reilly and John Robbins gave an interactive presentation on boating safety to 346 students at Apollo Beach Elementary School. They shared information with the students regarding the importance of not littering while on land or water and the importance of wearing life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) anytime they are in a boat.

Using various types of props such as plastic bags and samples of debris, Auxiliarists McAlvey, O’Reilly and Robbins demonstrated the negative effects of debris in the water to marine life.

The importance of wearing life jackets by adults and children while on a boat was then emphasized. The issue of ‘Wearing it Right’ and ‘Wearing it Tight’ were discussed and demonstrated by student volunteers. The correct size for the child and adult must be worn and the life jacket must fit snuggly with all straps appropriately buckled.

Videos were also shown to help the children further understand these points. The children’s reactions to the presentations and demonstrations were positive. They asked many questions and also provided many comments of their experiences of boating with their parents.

Overall, this class takes 50 minutes and is recommended for grades K-5. It is endorsed by Hillsborough County Public Schools.

Flotilla 75 gives these presentations to the Hillsborough County Park and Recreation Department as part of its after-school programs.

For more information on the class, About Boating Safety (ABS), which will be offered on Saturday, February 22, or if you are an organization interested in having a boating safety presentation at one of your events, contact Patrick McAlvey at 214-232-5202. Visit Flotilla75.org.