By Beth David
So you’re all set to go out on the water. As always, you have just the right number of life jackets for everyone.
Except, you don’t.
As you’re launching the boat, you realize that your 10-year-old left his (or her) life jacket at home.
You can’t leave your child all alone at the landing.
You can’t let him go with you without his life jacket.
Yours is too big for him. And, besides, letting him use yours would negate all those great lectures you gave about how everyone needs a life jacket on all the time, even the captain.
You could go back to the house, but that will eat up lots of time.
You could run to the store to buy a new one, but that’s also five miles up the neck….each way.
Fear not local boaters, the BoatUS Foundation has your back, providing loaner life jackets at five locations in Buzzards Bay, including two in Fairhaven.
The Boat US Life Jacket Loaner Program for Kids provides life jackets at no charge. Mackatan General Store on Causeway Road, West Island, is the newest site, targeting boaters at Hoppy’s Landing. But anyone can use the program.
Clint Allen, owner of TowBoatU.S. New Bedford, which subcontracts for BoatUS, said there is a big demand for life jackets. People have visitors, decide to go out on the boat, and then realize they do not have child life jackets. He stressed the importance of having life jackets that fit properly.
“They can slip out of it,” he said, adding that he sees “more than you would believe” people not using life jackets.
“To me, it’s just a great idea,” said Mr. Allen. “I’m happy to promote it.”
Fairhaven Harbormaster Tim Cox said it was an easy choice to let Mr. Allen put the sign up at Hoppy’s. He said the Marine Resources Committee voted to approve the sign.
“Last year we had to terminate three trips because kids didn’t have life jackets,” said Mr. Cox.
Children younger than 16 are required by law to wear life jackets when on a boat. People of all ages are encouraged to wear them.
“It’s an amazing program,” said Mr. Cox. “It’s what we are always promoting: Safety. People can be happy and safe and go out on the boat.”
The program is funded by the BoatUS Foundation, which furnishes the life jackets and the generic signs.
Mr. Allen said that Hoppy’s Landing is the fifth location in Buzzard’s Bay for the program. Other locations are: The Acushnet River Safe Boating Club gas dock (USCG Auxiliary), 80 Middle Street, Fairhaven, which is near the Pease Park boat ramp; Pope’s Island Marina in New Bedford, near the Fairhaven line just before the bridge; Mattapoisett Harbormaster’s office; and Westport Harbormaster’s office.
Chris Medeiros, who owns Mackatan said he thought it was a “great program” as soon as he heard about it. He said he did not hesitate to offer to run it from his store.
“Let’s help out the community,” said Mr. Medeiros. “They didn’t have a place to do it. We just wanted to help out. It’s a great thing for the kids. They don’t have to buy a life jacket, and, God forbid, they go out without one.”
The store has 12 jackets of different sizes. Boaters will have to fill out a form, and are expected to return the life jackets.
For more information on the program, including other locations, visit www.BoatUs.org •••
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