Acworth Coast Guard flotilla keeps Lake Allatoona safe
by Geoff Folsom
January 21, 2013 12:18 AM | 4214 views | 1 1 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Coast Guard Auxiliary flotilla, made up of retirees and other volunteers, patrols Lake Allatoona and aids emergency rescue crews each summer when the lake is filled with boaters. Above: From left, Vice-Flotilla Commander Larry Cook, Vessel Safety Staff Officer Paul Grenier, Flotilla Commander Jim Farley and Vessel Examiner Luis Cribeiro work with the Auxiliary.<br>Staff/Todd Hull
The Coast Guard Auxiliary flotilla, made up of retirees and other volunteers, patrols Lake Allatoona and aids emergency rescue crews each summer when the lake is filled with boaters. Above: From left, Vice-Flotilla Commander Larry Cook, Vessel Safety Staff Officer Paul Grenier, Flotilla Commander Jim Farley and Vessel Examiner Luis Cribeiro work with the Auxiliary.
Staff/Todd Hull
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ACWORTH — Walking into the Roberts School Community Center, you might think the men wearing blue uniforms are part of a group of military retirees. But when the members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s Flotilla 22 hit the water, they are on duty.

The Acworth-based flotilla, which has 63 members who regularly meet in Acworth, is responsible for teaching boating safety to the public, inspecting boats and patrolling on Lake Allatoona. Though members provide their own boats, which must meet Coast Guard inspection, the vessels are considered to be under Coast Guard operations.

“These days, Auxiliarists do virtually everything with the Coast Guard with the exception of combat and direct law enforcement,” said Flotilla 22 Commander Jim Farley, who joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary in 2004 after retiring from the city of Smyrna’s civil defense, emergency management and disaster planning operations.

The all-volunteer Flotilla 22, which was chartered in 1958, has an operations center in a mobile home-type building at Allatoona Landing, where its boats are required to report to at least every half hour when they are patrolling.

“If they see somebody in trouble, maybe we can assist them,” Farley said. “Sometimes they get flagged down if people have questions.”

District Captain David Fuller of Acworth, a Flotilla 22 member who oversees 35 flotillas in Georgia, South Carolina and northern Florida, said boating safety is the Coast Guard Auxiliary’s primary function. This includes teaching classes and providing free boat inspections, as well as getting word out at events like the Atlanta Boat Show. The organization emphasizes that people should avoid intoxication while boating and wear life jackets.

“We want them to have fun, but we want them to do it safely,” he said.

Jonathan Dawe of east Cobb, who works as an instructor with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, advises the public to take advantage of the lessons the group offers.

“All of our instructors are highly capable, highly knowledgeable, and they can really teach people how to be safe on the water,” he said. “Whether it’s a large boat, a small boat, a sailboat or a personal water craft like a Jet Ski, there’s a lot of things we can teach.”

Fuller said the nonprofit Coast Guard Auxiliary maintains a good relationship with local law enforcement as well as the Army Corps of Engineers. While Lake Allatoona presents some challenges different than other lakes because of how low its water level is drawn down for winter flood control, he said the Corps does a good job of warning boaters.

“Obviously, there are more shallow areas, but most of them are very well marked,” he said.

In other parts of Fuller’s district, the Coast Guard Auxiliary helps out with Coast Guard operations in ports like Savannah, and assists the Coast Guard with patrols in large events like the G8 Summit that was held in 2004 in Sea Island and last year’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fuller said. At other events, they are serving in a ceremonial capacity, such as providing honor guards and color guards at events like parades and Sept. 11 remembrances.

One of the Coast Guard Auxiliary’s goals is to increase its membership. Fuller, a retired Auto Zone official, said it accepts people as young as 17, and has had members as old as 87 in Flotilla 22. Most are between their 50s and 70s and only about a third have military experience.

“We would like to have people with boats, but that is not a requirement to join our organization,” he said. “We don’t just want inactive members, we want people who will take one of our programs and run with it.”

While Farley wasn’t an avid boater when he joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Dawe, 47, said his love of the water was a primary reason he joined Flotilla 22 two years ago. He wanted to join the Coast Guard or Reserves, but was too old.

Now, he’s glad he joined the Auxiliary.

“It can be a very enriching experience,” Dawe said.
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Jim Carr
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January 22, 2013
I and helpful.I suggest that all who have boats get them inspected.You may just learn something about your boat safety that you did not know,just as I did.I salute the volunteers.
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