Water Safety Lessons The Fun Way


waterThe Port Washington Yacht Club really knows how to start its Junior Sailing Program with a bang.

Not content to just acquaint the kids to boats and the water (which they did), they looked for something spectacular for their first day of operation.

Lisa Grygiel, junior activities chair, found the perfect offering. She invited the Port Washington Fireboat to make an appearance that the Port Washington Yacht Club dock, where five volunteers spent the afternoon with small groups of children telling them all about safety on the water.

But this wasn’t your classroom lesson that just happened to take place outside. Frank Scobbo, ex captain from Flower Hill Hose Company #1, really knew how to engage both the youngest child all the way to young teens.

The beautiful fireboat docked right behind him helped keep the campers attention, but in the end, it was Frank’s presentation that got the kids really listening. And I bet not one of them thought they were “having a safety lesson,” when, in fact, they got a lot of information about on-the-water safety.

Starting with the need to wear life jackets at all times to what to do if they had an emergency on the water, Frank kept the kids’ interest. He periodically asked them questions and the kids came up with some surprisingly good answers, while others were, well, somewhat unique (read inquisitive), but all happily shared with their thoughts with the group.

What was really interesting to the older groups was the high technology on the boat. Looking for someone who is underwater…not a problem…they have special goggles for that. Night rescues…not a problem…they have night vision goggles.

Out came the fire equipment, some hoses, helmets, etc., which the kids really liked. But best of all was the water hose on the bow of the boat. Operated by remote control, the spray changed direction, force and shape, kind of like your garden hose when you pick “shower” or “jet” or “soaker”—but with terrific force that shot the water way out into the bay.

While the spray was doing its thing, the kids never stopped with their questions.

When asked what the five firemen thought were some safety rules of the road (or rather, rules of the water): they came up with: 1. Wear life jackets all the time on the water—even the adults 2. If you own a boat, take a safe boating course or at least obtain basic knowledge form a licensed mariner. 3. Don’t drink and drive your boat. 4. Communicate with crew on your boat so they are familiar with such things as “man overboard” and how to use radios to call for help. 5. Check you safety equipment at the beginning of the season and periodically throughout the season. 6. Get training or have knowledge of what to do in an emergency. and 7. Know the area you are sailing; have charts of the area and know how to read them.

While this list was a “spur of the moment, off the top of their heads” answer, they were quick to add that there are many safety checklists on the Internet. A quick search provided the following: United States Coast Guard, Boating Safety, Teaching Kids the Basics of Safe Boating:

d6.boatingmag.com/boatingsafety/tips/safety-tip/teaching-kids-basics-safe-boating; Safe Kids Worldwide, Boating Safety Tips, www.safekids.org/tip/boating-safety-tips; American Boating Association (ABA), Boating Safety Program: www.americanboating.org/safety.asp; and American Red Cross’ Water Safety Tips: www2.redcross.org/services/hss/tips/healthtips/safetywater.html.

Many thanks to: Donald DeBari (Atlantic Hook & Ladder Company #1), 54 years of service; Andrew Diffley, fire fighter and EMT (Flower Hill Hose Company #1) and (Fire Medic Company #1), four years; Brian O’Malley, fire fighter and EMT (Protection Engine Company #1) and (Fire Medic Company #1), eight years; John O’Reilly, former chief (Protection Engine Company #1), 40 years; and Frank Scobbo, ex captain (Flower Hill Hose Company #1), 25 years. And, of course, many thanks to Lisa Grygiel for getting the ball rolling on what turned out to be one fantastic first day of Junior Sailing at Port Washington YC.

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Andrea Watson is a Port Washington-based maritime photographer and journalist. She writes Manhasset Press' column On The Bay and is currently the Executive Secretary of the Yacht Racing Association of Long Island Sound (YRALIS).