This Saturday the Kenai U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will hold a free boat safety inspection in the parking lot of the Kenai Walmart from noon to 5 p.m.
“We’ll be checking to see if the recreation boats have the appropriate safety equipment on board,” said Flotilla Commander Allan Christopherson. “Fire extinguishers, visual flares, life jackets for people, making sure the life jackets aren’t too old.”
Inspection of the boat’s mechanical features — batteries, navigation lights, fuel lines, heaters, and carbon monoxide detectors — will also be offered.
“In older boats, sometimes people think they have everything they need, and they overlook something,” Christopherson said. “In one or two boats I’ve found cracked fuel lines, for instance, which is a real hazard.”
A boat’s lighting is another common oversight, according to Christopherson.
“Right now you don’t have to worry too much about navigation lights because of the long daylight we have in Alaska, but on the other hand, we have fog a lot of times out there on Cook Inlet,” Christopherson said. “Then those navigation lights have to work.”
In addition to inspection, the Coast Guard Auxiliary will also provide education on using Very High Frequency (VHF) radios.
“A lot of people have radios, but they don’t know what channels to be on to talk to each other,” Christopherson said. “VHF radios have a low-power setting and a high-power setting, and a lot of times people will be using a high-power setting, which will send it 15 miles away, when they only want to talk to a friend of theirs who’s a half-mile away.”
Newer digital marine radios also have additional safety features that many users are unaware of, Christopherson said.
“They have a red button that you press to get help if you need it,” Christopherson said. “(The radios) have to be wired into the GPS, so if you ever have to push that red button, it automatically sends your location to everybody around. And it does it within one second. If you don’t have that hooked up, you have to read those numbers off of your GPS. In stressful situations, you may read them incorrectly.”
The digital radios can also be programmed to give the color, length, owner, and type of boat in the emergency signal.
Christopherson said that those without digital VHF can use “the emergency channel, which is channel 16 on the VHF radio.”
Reach Ben Boettger at firstname.lastname@example.org.