On the Water Special Boating Section: Coast Guard Auxiliary offers education, fun

Published on Wed, Apr 18, 2012 by Meg Olson

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U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary members test dry suits on April 2. Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Would you be interested in being a photographer for a polar expedition? Would you like to be a chef coordinating thousands of dinners? Or do you just want to know how to send out a Mayday when a day out on the water takes a bad turn? The United States Coast Guard (USCG) Auxiliary could be how you get there.

“We are all volunteers and we come from all walks of life, men and women,” said Gary Cordrey, commander of USCG Auxiliary Flotilla 19, based in Blaine.

Cordrey said the Auxiliary was formed in 1949 “to assist the USCG in fulfilling their mission.”

“Our whole purpose is safe boating and educating the public,” Cordrey said, but there are many ways auxiliary members can do that, some on the water and some off.

“There are a phenomenal number of different activities available to members,” Cordrey said. “We have a lot of USCG classes and anybody can go to them.” One of the Flotilla 19 members has trained at USCG expense to become an auxiliary chef who can coordinate events and food services on any USCG vessel. Another has trained as a pollution control expert who responds to local spills when dispatched by the USCG. Yet another received training in photography and has participated in USCG polar expeditions. Members have trained in incident response, safe boating practices, communications, vessel inspection and many other areas of expertise that they can then bring back to their communities.

Classes offered to the boating community are one of the core activities for the auxiliary, Cordrey said, including basic boating, navigation, rules of the road and emergency preparedness.

A new and very successful addition, Cordrey said, was the “Suddenly in Command” class, a boating class for women, taught by women.

“The reason for it is that in the boating community the highest number of operators are men and the women do something else,” Cordrey said. “Our goal is to get these women to be confident and to see they can do this. Women will ask questions in a group of women they won’t ask if there are men present.”

Another public education function is free vessel exams. “We come on your boat at your request and determine the condition of the boat itself and USCG mandated safety equipment,” Cordrey said. “We are not a policing agency and it’s up to you to correct any deficiencies we might find.”

While Flotilla 19 does not have dedicated vessels, Cordrey said eight of their 44 members have had their boats certified and equipped as USCG facilities. “We can go out under orders from the Coast Guard to do patrols or they can call us if they need assistance in this area,” Cordrey said.

Flotilla 19 is looking to expand its membership in Blaine and hopes to establish subgroups in other communities, such as Point Roberts. “We’re looking for anybody who would just like to get involved and help other people,” Cordrey said.

Interested individuals can contact Cordrey at 360/647-0267 or 360/366-0362, or attend one of the flotilla’s regular meetings the first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Blaine Harbor Boating Center conference room.