Keeping Lake Erie waters safe
... can be a boater's best friend
PEDRO USCANGA, (left) a seaman for the Ashtabula station of the U.S. Coast
watches the harbor as boats pass Saturday near the Ashtabula Lift bridge Saturday.
ASHTABULA - Fighting 3- to 8-foot waves is just part of the fun for U.S. Coast
Guard personnel patrolling area waters on a beautiful summer day.
It can really get ugly when that nice summer day turns into a windy fall day and
misguided boaters find themselves stranded on a suddenly angry Lake Erie.
So far, this summer the Coast Guard has boarded 182 boats, had 80 search and
rescues and numerous spot checks, said Boatswain's Mate Third Class James
Search and rescue has dropped the last few years, because of the education the
Coast Guard has been doing with boaters, said Boatswain's Mate Second Class Kris
Search and rescue missions, boat boarding and educational efforts are the prime
focus of the Ashtabula Coast Guard station.
The crew consists of 10 men who rotate shifts. One shift is made up of
four men who have various duties. When on the waters of Lake Erie, the Coast
Guard may go as far as the border of Lake County all the way to Elk Creek in
Spot checks examine boats for life jackets or safety equipment while cruising in
the Ashtabula River channel. Boarding of boats occurs when the Coast Guard
physically stops and boards a boat checking all safety equipment on board.
"We can board any boat and educate the boater on boating safety,"
When a boat is boarded, the Coast Guard also hands out a brochure to boaters
with the federal requirements and safety tips.
Within the last month, the U.S. Coast Guard conducted two search and rescues
involving sinking boats, Van Sickle said. One was in Conneaut and one in
Ashtabula Harbor, he said. There have been four such rescues this season.
The unit also assisted the Canadian Coast Guard last weekend when a 60-foot
yacht sank two-miles off the Canadian American border.
The crew on duty that weekend was underway for 25 hours, said Boatswain's Mate
Third Class Steve Harroun, who was on his last shift Saturday, for the Ashtabula
Even before leaving the station on a search and rescue, the Coast Guard needs to
know the boats general location, how many people are on board and the nature of
the emergency, Doxtater said. Some emergency equipment is not always stored on
the boat because of its size, so the nature of emergency and or injuries is
important, he said.
If need be a Coast Guard helicopter out of Buffalo N.Y., is launched to aid in
the search, Doxtater said. If a flare was seen the local law enforcement may be
called to assist, he said. Usually someone on land has seen the flare and the
police are asked to that location and leave their lights on.
"It helps us to see the lights to try pinpoint a location," Doxtater
On an average the Coast Guard is out on the water 20 hours a weekend. If there
is a search and rescue, it could be any from three to 11 hours just on the
search and rescue, Harroun said.
Guard boat can handle up to eight feet waves and needs clearance to go out in
This year the number of boaters out on the waters is about the same as last
year, even though this summer seemed hotter and drier.
STEVE HARROUN (left), a boatswain mate third class for the U.S. Coast (left) and
Kris VanSickle, a boatswain mate second class, complete a patrol on the
Ashtabula River Saturday near the coast guard station.