Sailing into summer safely
Posted by PA1 Elizabeth H. Bordelon, Friday, June 1, 2012
The campers at St. Louis King of France Camp Crusader had a very special guest cruise in for a visit Wednesday, May 30, 2012. Much to the delight of the 71 campers, Coastie the Safety Boat sailed by to teach some lessons on water safety and the use of life jackets.
“I have to say, it was really cool and amazing,” said seven-year-old Birke Gaspard. “I was kind of scared to go up to him at first, but then he winked at me and I knew it was ok.”
The animated robotic cartoon character is just one tool the Coast Guard Auxilliary uses to teach kids safe habits on and around the water and is, by far, their most popular. The brainchild of Ohio Auxiliarist Mike Robeano, Coastie officially joined the fleet in 1997. His immediate and overwhelming success prompted the Auxilliary to commission an entire class of Coasties.
And so the Low Endurance Coastie Cutter Class was born.
Coastie is 44 inches long, 30 inches wide and 45 inches tall. He boasts navigation and searchlights, a rotating beacon, siren, air horn, moveable eyes and eyelids, a bilge pump, and a built-in squirt gun. The entire class underwent a renovation and modernization in 2000, which added a full, duplex two-way voice system and an MP3 player to his already impressive list of features.
There are currently more than 50 Coastie Safety Boats in the Coastie Cutter Class. The cutters are under the command of Auxilliary divisions nationwide.
“Coastie belongs to the division and is available for use to all 10 of the flotillas within the division,” said Auxilliarist Joe Stephens. “But he’s quite special. The operator has to complete training to become qualified to operate Coastie. We currently have three qualified operators in the division.”
“This Coastie was completely destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina,” said Stephens. “We had to rebuild the whole thing after the storm.”
Summer is the busiest time of the year for Coastie. He makes the rounds at summer camps and kids rodeos, singing songs and promoting proper life jacket use to children across the country.
“My favorite part was the song,” said Holden Schott, 5. “He was spinning and going crazy. Then he squirted water on my leg! It was really funny.”
And while his stout little 120-pound frame may not displace a draft, he sure does leave waves of smiling faces in his wake.
“I was really surprised when he came out,” said Will Tusa, 6. “I didn’t know he was coming and I can’t wait for him to come back.”
If your organization is interested in booking a visit from Coastie, please visit the Coastie Locator Guide at http://coastie.auxpa.org/locations.html.