Partnership will enhance boat safety

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A partnership between Sea Tow Pamlico and the City of Washington should prove to be beneficial when it comes to improving boating safety on area waters and could save lives.

During the City Council’s meeting Monday, the council instructed city staff to work with Larry Williams, owner of Sea Tow Pamlico, on setting up a life jacket loaner program. Williams and the city deserve praise for forming the partnership. With boating such a big part of the city’s economy and culture, it makes sense for the city and Sea Tow Pamlico to provide the life jacket loaner program.

The City Council unanimously voted to support the program.

The program will not cost the city any money, Williams told the council.

Why is the program important?

Seventy-five percent of fatal boating-accident victims drowned. Of those, 84 percent were reported as not wearing life jackets, according to information from the Sea Tow Foundation. All boats are required to have a properly fitting, Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person on a boat. This program will help some boaters from becoming fatal boating-accident victims.

“What we’re asking is to place along the Washington waterfront, somewhere along the docks, a life jacket-loaner stand. The purpose of this stand, of course, is to promote the wearing of life jackets, as well as having them on board your boat,” Williams told the council.

Washington is not the only location for such stands. Sea Tow Foundation has erected about 200 life jacket-loaner stands up and down the East Coast, Williams noted. Grant money is used to buy the life jackets. The stand would be up during the boating season, coming down when it ends in the fall.

“The idea is to get jackets back in front of people and make them aware of it. We’re seeing somewhere around 1,200 boating deaths every year nationwide. The stats we’re getting back from the Coast Guard are telling us that about 800 of those lives could have been saved had they been wearing a life jacket,” Williams said.

If the program saves just one life, the time and money invested in the program will have been well worth the investment.

“I will note that I just signed a proclamation with the (Pamlico Sail and) Power Squadron and Coast Guard Auxiliary for boating safety. I think this is certainly consistent, and we appreciate you … and Sea Tow for bringing us this opportunity. Sounds like a great idea,” Mayor Archie Jennings said.

He’s right. The life jacket-loaner program is a great opportunity to help save lives.

Several months back, we praised Williams for going above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to helping keep the city docks safe and assisting boaters using those docks. A couple of years ago, Sea Tow Pamlico set up a radio-check system for boaters on the Pamlico-Tar River and its tributaries.

With their aid to and services for boaters, Sea Tow Pamlico and the city are doing what needs to be done to help protect the boating public.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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