The Northwest Florida Daily News reports that Drew Barefield, who was hit by a boat while snorkeling in the Choctawhatchee Bay a little less than a year ago, is the official 2015 Ambassador for Boating Safety Week in Destin. What a great way to turn a tragedy into promoting an important and great cause. The ceremony took place with Miss Destin, Coast Guard members, emergency responders and supporters of the Ronald McDonald House honoring Drew, his parents and his sister Savannah. Drew told the paper that he was feeling pretty good. He felt like he was almost all the way healed. According to the family, the support from the community and the Ronald McDonald House was fantastic. The Ronald McDonald House took care of everything, from food and fresh clothing and towels to getting him in contact with an optometrist when he needed new contacts.Trey and Wendy, Drew’s mom, were there from June 28 to Sept. 11. During that time, Drew was at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, fighting for his life after being severely injured by a boat propeller. If you remember, it was a Sunday evening when young Drew was struck by the propeller of a boat headed west at a high rate of speed. Drew’s recovery was long. He started out in a wheelchair before graduating to a walker. He lost a lot of weight and has regained 20 pounds. Almost a year after the accident, he looks like any other 13-year-old, nearly healed.
To remind us all of boating safely, as summer is close upon us, I’ve listed some tips that we could all remember when getting out in the water.
Minimize the risk:
If you have safety equipment, you’re minimizing the possibility for something to happen. Here are some other tips to help boaters have a safe and prepared summer on the water:
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon:
Own it, know it, and register it. An EPIRB is a device that is designed to transmit a distress signal if you get into trouble. No matter where you are in the world, an EPIRB sends a signal to emergency responders through a satellite system.
Life jackets tops the list for safety. Life jackets should bear a tag that shows they are Coast Guard approved.
Boaters should prepare a written float plan that’s given to friends or family members to show where they’re bound, when they plan to leave shore and when they plan to return. If something goes wrong, they can call for help for you. Make sure somebody knows where you’re at. The float plan should also include a description of your boat and a description of the safety equipment you are carrying.
Boaters should check the weather before embarking. Know your weather limitations – what your boat can handle and what it can’t. Check the weather for storms, tides, currents and winds.
A VHF-FM radio is the best method of communication while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area and the inevitable dead battery. Purchase radios to assure communication with other boaters and Coast Guard crews. Its range can be picked up much farther than a cell phone; Furthermore, have nautical charts of the area you are boating in, a global positioning device and a reliable means of communication on board your vessel.
Don’t be distracted:
Just like driving a car, don’t do anything that can take your attention away from operating a boat. Talking and texting are a distraction while trying to maintain safety on the water.
Don’t bow ride:
The Coast Guard nation-wide urges the boating public to think twice before allowing their friends and family members to carelessly bow ride. “You wouldn’t allow your kids to sit of the hood of your car, so why would you allow them to sit on the bow of your boat?” Bow riding refers to the unsafe practice of passengers remaining on the bow of a recreational vessel while it is making way.
Inspect your vessel:
Inspect your boat to avoid breakdowns that too often lead to tragedy in the water. You’re supposed to do a full check before you take the boat out. Run the engine to see if it’s working. Obtain a free, no-fault vessel safety check, which can be conducted by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, before heading out on the water. The safety checks are courtesy examinations of your vessel, verifying the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations. The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers free boating safety classes. The biggest problem is lack of knowledge and boatmanship ability.