The local Coast Guard Auxiliary at Wiggins Pass is back to head leading classes, boat inspections, patrols and more. After being on hiatus for in-person education for over a year, due to the pandemic, they are welcoming people through their doors again. Last Wednesday evening, they held their first in-person classes. Now plans are underway for more classes and educational activities.

Chuck Moore is leading the class at Coast Guard 96 Auxiliary Flotilla at Wiggins Pass on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. It was the first night that in-person classes resumed since being suspended in the spring of 2020 due to the pandemic .

Ellen DeLeo, captain of the local 96 Flotilla, encourages people to come and take classes.

“In COVID, a lot of people went out and bought bikes and kayaks,” she began. “It’s something that people could do.”

Boat purchases were also skyrocketing, with many local boat dealers unable to keep ships on their lots. With many new boaters comes the need for more education.

“There is no other brake than to slow down,” she said of driving a boat.

But it is not that simple. There is so much to learn from taking the helm of a motor boat or even paddling a kayak.

“You are always learning something new,” DeLeo said.

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The local helper started his in-person lessons with two classes. Local Water Knowledge focused on teaching waterways from an area stretching 15 nautical miles from Vanderbilt Lagoon in northern Naples to Matanzas Pass through the northern tip of Fort Myers Beach. Participants watched an in-depth video and learned about shallow areas to avoid, speed limits, waymarks and more. The next class was suddenly in control. This is for passengers who might need to take action if the captain is unable to arm the vessel.

“Real urgency is not the time to learn,” instructor Chuck Moore explained as he read PowerPoint slides.

These courses are both free.

“We wanted to kick off something for National Safe Boating Week,” DeLeo explained.

The local helper plans to resume her eight-hour in-person lessons on Boat America in July. This in-depth course, which has a nominal fee for equipment, ends with a test and a boater’s card. To operate a powerboat of ten or more horsepower, Florida law requires anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 to successfully complete an approved boating safety course and obtain a safety education ID card. boating safety issued by the FWC. Coast Guard Auxiliary Officers recommend that even people born before this date take the course.

“Just to learn how to minimize the impacts,” Deleo said. “It’s learning things like filing a floating shot. “

DeLeo is happy to finally have classes in person. She said that many students prefer this.

“When you’re on Zoom all day for work, the last thing you want is to be on Zoom for class,” she said. “A lot of people like the classroom exchange.”

The local helper also performs his free boat safety checks. Anyone who wants to ensure that they have all the appropriate safety devices on board and that their boats meet the requirements of the standard can request an inspection. Volunteers do this at the Carl Johnson Boat Ramp, Bonita Bay and by appointment with the people.

“We also do safety checks of boaters,” added DeLeo. “This is the opportunity to have a conversation about safety and paddling in this area.

Flotilla 96 volunteer Judy Ricciarelli said there was a lot of training for the 86 members during the shutdown, but that she was happy to be working with the public again.

“We are excited,” she said.

Bob and Sandy Kargen were among the first to return to class.

“We have a boat,” began Sandy Kargen. “We go boating regularly, so we thought it wouldn’t hurt to hone our safety skills. I was very interested in the Suddenly in Command since (husband) is the captain of the boat.

Even an experienced boater like Bob Kargen enjoyed the class.

“I have been sailing here for 20 years in these exact waters,” he said. “It was nice to see all the places that are very familiar to us.

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary was established by the United States Congress in 1939 to help the United States Coast Guard promote safe boating. The Auxiliary has over 30,000 members who receive special training to help on the waterways. Flotilla 96 was founded in 1973 and is one of the largest fleets in this district.

For more information on future classes or to schedule a free boat inspection, call 239-594-8009 or visit the website at or -06.

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