Vessel Safety Checks and Survival Suit Racing Raises Boat Safety Awareness

nicole_boat_safety_check.jpgVessel examiner Nicole Clark doing a safety check with boat owner, Stormy Stutes. Photo by Drew Herman

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

If there’s one thing you need to keep in mind when taking your vessel out into Kodiak waters, it’s safety.

This week, the Coast Guard in Kodiak is trying to raise awareness for National Safe Boating Week 2015. Members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the volunteer branch of the coast guard, will offer several different opportunities this weekend, including free Recreational Vessel Safety Checks.

Flotilla vice commander Eduardo Vitorino says it’s a voluntary exam and your results are your own.

“It doesn’t get sent up to anywhere and they’re not gonna give you a ticket," says Vitorino. "All it is is just for you to take that paper and read it, and be like ‘alright, well, I guess I need to get a fire extinguisher.’ You look at the checklist, you go get your fire extinguisher, put it on the boat, and if there’s nothing else, give us a call back, we’ll come back, and do another one and give you a copy of your passing and give you a sticker.”

In other words, there are no consequences except for the ones you’ll face out at sea if you don’t have a fire extinguisher or the other items Vitorino says are required by federal guidelines.

“There’s flairs, your nav, have your type 4 life jacket – or throwable as we call it – it can be a ring buoy or it can be the square one, seat cushion type that’s on your boat," says Vitorino. "And then the number of life jackets that’s required to be on the boat depends on how many people you’re taking out.”

Vessel examiners will be in uniform at both St. Herman and St. Paul harbor this Saturday roughly between 11 and 2 p.m. They’ll be available for questions and safety exam requests and say they also accept appointments.

Auxiliary volunteer and vessel examiner Nicole Clark says the Norm Holm Memorial Survival Suit Race will also take place Saturday. Team members will meet at the St. Paul Harbor launch ramp and Clark says racers swim about fifty feet to a raft wearing survival suits over their clothes.

Vitorino and Clark say the key is teamwork and you need to get all your team members onto the raft to be successful.

“You run down to the dock, you put your survival suit on first, then check your buddys’, make sure that they’re good to go, and then jump in the water, and figure out or coordinate a way to get your team out to the raft," says Vitorino.

"The hardest part of the race is getting up onto that life raft at the end," adds Clark. "‘Cause you’re tired from swimming and you’re heavy from being wet. It’s kind of a fun version of what you would be doing in a survival situation.”
Vitorino and Clark say the race begins at 1 p.m. and observers are welcome. If you’re a participant, they suggest you bring a towel in case you get wet.

To make a boat safety check appointment, you can contact vessel examination coordinator, Alan Morris, at or (907) 942 7132. You can also find out more about federal guidelines here.

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