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Boaters to benefit from Ramp Day

It’s May already, and almost time to break out the water skis and outboard engines. With that in mind, the area Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Corps of Engineers are teaming up this weekend to make Lake Demopolis and the city’s river system a safer place.

The Auxiliary is spearheading Ramp Day, a day-long event at the Demopolis City Landing this Saturday which will give area boaters the opportunity to make sure their boat is ready for the 2005 boating season.

“Anyone who wants one can have a free boating safety inspection,” says Auxiliary official Gene Guy. “The inspection will let you know if you’re in compliance with federal and state regulations or not.”

Anyone whose boat was found to have no violations of state or federal boating codes would receive a sticker for their boat verifying that the watercraft had passed their inspection.

“Hopefully we’ll have a good turnout,” Guy said. “We’ll approach folks who are bringing in their boats and give them the opportunity to have their boat inspected. They don’t have to have the check, of course, but we’ll have a form we’ll go by and check off anything that’s not right. Then the owner can go back and fix it. If they want we’ll inspect them again and they can still get their sticker.”

The inspection will check for compliance with the complete variety of boating regulations, Guy said.

“We do a check of all the required equipment. For instance, you have to have an alternate source of power, like a paddle,” he says. “We’ll check the number of life preservers, see if there’s anything that might be a fire hazard…we’ll go through everything.”

According to Guy, the check will be especially important for any out-of-town boaters who might return for Freedom or Christmas on the River.

“One thing Pat’s pushing this year is for boaters to make sure their stern light is one meter above their bow light,” he said, referring to area marine policeman Pat Oliver and a regulation in which Alabama differs from the federal standard. “What might be legal in Mississippi might not be legal in Alabama. Pat’ll tell you ‘You’ve got to have it this way.'”

The Corps of Engineers will also be on hand Saturday, having set up a “canopy” tent for volunteers and the distribution of the Engineers’ water safety-related information, such as children’s coloring books and boating safety pamphlets.

Ramp Day will also give the Auxiliary the chance to possibly recruit some new members, Guy said, and give them the chance to perform an important service for their community.

“The Auxiliary is a uniform part of the Coast Guard. We’re all volunteers. We do a lot of things with the Coast Guard and the Coast Guard does a lot of things with us,” Guy said. “We’re also part of the Homeland Security department. Our primary focus is boating safety but we also help with search-and-rescue and boater education.

We have no police authority. Sometimes when people see us they run. But if we find someone broken down we tow them in…if someone’s lost we go looking for them.”

The Saturday date was chosen with next week’s National Boating Safety week–and the upcoming summer temperatures–in mind.

“We always try to have it early in the year,” Guy said. “National Boating Safety Week is the week before Memorial Day, which is when the boating season really kicks off.”