Nothing can be more frustrating than getting to the boat launch/ramp and realizing that you left the life jackets at home.
Forgetting your Personal Floatation Devices (PFD) means a morning can be ruined, the bite could be missed, or if you take a chance and go out without them, a life could be lost.
Boaters along Florida’s Gulf Coast who forget their life jackets can now rest assured. A valuable service that provides life jackets free of charge is still available and getting better.
Sea Tow Charlotte Harbor and the Peace River Sail & Power Squadron have partnered to manage 11 life jacket loaner stands located in Charlotte Harbor, Punta Gorda, and Placida, ensuring that the PFDs are maintained, clean and ready to use when needed.
“The partnership will not only increase maintenance of these life jacket loaner stands, but help to promote this valuable service to the public so more people can stay safe on the water,” said District 22’s District Lieutenant Commander Harold Anderson, AP of the Peace River Sail & Power Squadron.
According to Captain Mike DeGenaro, owner of Sea Tow Charlotte Harbor, which provides on-the-water services to boaters in need, the life jacket loaner stands are located in the following areas:
• El Jobean Ramp
• Port Charlotte Beach
• Spring Lake Boat Ramp
• Burnt Store Boat Ramp
• Burnt Store Cradle Launch
• Laishley Marina
• Fisherman’s Village
• Harbor Heights Boat Ramp
• Ponce Park
• Gasparilla Marina
• Placida Boat Ramp
“We can’t be everywhere, but we are doing our best to provide these stands in busy boating areas where we know that people could have a need and benefit from them,” DeGenaro said.
Management of the life jacket stands includes: counting use, monitoring for loss, repairs, promoting the service, and taking regular inventory.
Sea Tow Foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner Program
The Sea Tow Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created to promote safe boating practices, has distributed more than 35,000 life jackets to boaters across the country since 2008 with the help of volunteers including: Sea Tow Captains, US Power Squadrons, various organizations, and boating agencies throughout the United States and territories. These stands are placed in locations where boaters will have easy access to the life jackets, such as boat ramps, marinas, and parks.
Boaters may borrow the life jackets at no cost and are asked to return them when they are done so that they are available for others to use. These life jackets are purchased through a grant from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, as administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. They are distributed to volunteer hosts who make them available to boaters free of charge.
The Life Jacket Loaner program has three components:
1) Life Jacket Drive, which hosts ask their community to donate new and gently used jackets.
2) Life Jacket Grant, which offers boating agencies and nonprofit organization the opportunity to receive life jackets and stands at no charge.
3) Life Jacket Partnership, which offers life jackets and stand for a fee along with a manual and technical support.
Peace River Sail & Power Squadron
The Peace River Sail & Power Squadron is dedicated to teaching the proper and safe way to operate a sail or power boat. Located in Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte area of Florida, the unit is a division of The United States Power Squadrons®, the world’s largest recreational boating organization with more than 35,000 members.
For more than 100 years, the Power Squadron has worked to make the water a safer place through boating education, civic service and fellowship. It also offers ways to improve your boating skills and knowledge online, in the classroom with certified instructors, or outdoors with hands-on training.