Volunteers keep boaters, waterways safe

EVERETT — Tony Gobernatz’s first boat was an old wooden rowboat.

He was 12 at the time and paid $15 for the rowboat and the coffee can it came with for bailing out water.

“I took it to any place my dad would pull it to or to any lake I could get anyone else to pull it,” said Gobernatz, 70.

Spending time on lakes near where he grew up in Minnesota sparked a lifelong love for boating.

The Mukilteo resident and his wife, Lee, now enjoy taking summer cruises on their 40-foot Bayliner and volunteering their time to help others responsibly enjoy their boats.

Gobernatz is chairman of the Everett Sail &Power Squadron. He and seven other Everett Sail &Power Squadron members offer free vessel safety checks throughout the year. The checks help boat owners voluntary comply with federal and state recreational boating safety laws.

“Whether it’s a kayak or yacht, you’re eligible to get a free vessel safety check,” Gobernatz said.

Everett Sail &Power Squadron is part of the United States Power Squadrons, a nonprofit educational organization made up of more than 400 squadrons throughout the country. The Everett squadron promotes boating safety, skill and responsibility.

As a vessel safety check inspector, Gobernatz conducted 80 checks last year and often encourages boaters to take courses to increase their knowledge of boating. The Everett Sail &Power Squadron offers scheduled checks and holds several annual safety check events. This year, the group has held events at Port of Everett Marina and Dagmars Marina in Everett and at the Shelter Bay Marina in La Conner.

On Saturday at Dagmars Marina, the group checked nine boats, including a 28-foot Bayliner owned by Everett resident and safety inspector Raul Biascoechea.

Gobernatz and Renee Olson of Monroe used a checklist provided by the U.S. Coast Guard to inspect the boat. They made sure the boat met all requirements, including the correct display of the boat registration number, registration documentation kept inside of the boat, and having enough U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets for each person aboard. Additional requirements, such as navigation devices, flares, fire extinguishers and other items, are checked on vessels that meet certain size restrictions.

Inspectors are required to do at least five checks every year to maintain their status, said Biascoechea, 54. They can refer to a vessel safety check manual provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary to help answer any questions that arise during a check. They also keep extra placards on hand to give to owners who need to display those items in order to pass inspection.

The program is voluntary for boaters, said Biascoechea, who routinely checks boats used by the Everett Rowing Association.

“There’s no punitive thing here,” he said. “If they fail they fail and we tell them here are some things to go get fixed and offer them a chance to come back and get the boat checked again.”

Having a mechanical background is helpful for the job but not required, Gobernatz said. The most important characteristic of an inspector is to have a love for boats and a willingness to help educate people in safe boating practices, he added.

“There are so many people out there who just don’t realize that their kids need to be wearing life jackets, that they need to be wearing life jackets, and that their boats need to be in tip-top shape because the waters that we cruise in are beautiful and fun but they can turn in a minute and they are very unforgiving,” Gobernatz said.

The educational and social components of belonging to the Everett Sail &Power Squadron make it fun to be a member and inspector, said Olson, 50. Many of the members go on rendezvous and teach or take boating classes together.

“The thing about the group is there’s always somebody who is not just able to come up and tell you what you need to do but are there for you to ask for some advice about boating,” she said. “There’s that camaraderie and that happens from serving together.”

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

To find out more about Everett Sail &Power Squadron go to www.usps.org/everett.

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