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|05-23-03: Coast Guard to set sail on Grand Lake
|By NANCY ALLEN
The Daily Standard
The waters of Grand Lake St. Marys may be a bit safer starting
The new Grand Lake U.S. Coast Guard flotilla detachment will make its
maiden voyage this Memorial Day weekend on Grand Lake St. Marys, a time when boaters
traditionally flock to lakes for water fun and recreation.
Unfortunately, this weekend also is a time when the possibility of
water-related accidents increases. And that's why the flotilla is here, said Phil Clem,
the officer in charge of the flotilla detachment.
Clem, a seven-year member of the Indian Lake U.S. Coast Guard auxiliary
flotilla, is responsible for starting the Grand Lake group, which is actually a detachment
of the Indian Lake auxiliary flotilla. The Grand Lake group is made up of six members, the
minimum required for a flotilla detachment. To become a full fledged Coast Guard auxiliary
flotilla, a group must have at least 20 members.
Clem, who lives at Indian Lake, said there used to be an operating U.S.
Coast Guard auxiliary flotilla on Grand Lake years ago. He hopes to spark enough interest
to get another full fledged flotilla going on the lake again.
"All these people are members of the Indian Lake flotilla,"
Clem said referring to the six Grand Lake detachment members. "We're actively looking
for new members. That is an end goal, to get a full flotilla here."
All flotillas are staffed by volunteers and certified by the United
States Coast Guard. Their main objective is to teach boating safety through boater
education courses. Flotillas are a completely volunteer group. They furnish their own
uniforms, boats and equipment.
"We spend a lot of time with this and we don't get paid, but we
get a lot of satisfaction out of it," said Clem, 67, a retired maintenance worker
with GTE. "Basically the biggest thing we furnish is our time."
Flotilla members do not have enforcement authority, but can provide
search and rescue assistance to Division of Watercraft and state park officials, assist
stranded boaters by towing them ashore and check boats for proper safety equipment. The
Grand Lake flotilla detachment will work on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Clem
The detachment is headquartered at the St. Marys Sister City Friendship
building on Edgewater Drive drive between the Grand Lake St. Marys State Park office and
St. Marys East Bank Marina. The city of St. Marys is allowing the group to use a portion
of the building, which will be the future site of boater education classes and meetings.
It also is where the flotilla detachment has its radio communications center, so members
can communicate with boaters on the lake. Flotilla officials will monitor channel 16, the
nailing and emergency frequency for boaters nationwide, Clem said.
The Grand Lake detachment won't go on the 13,500-acre lake every
weekend, Clem said. It does plan to patrol the lake during this year's Governor's Cup
Regatta hydroplane boat races on Aug. 23-24 and during the Celina Lake Festival weekend
July 25-27. Both weekends are extremely heavy times for boat traffic.
Clem, who has assisted with roughly 30 search and rescues, including
those on Grand Lake and Indian Lake, said he hopes the flotilla detachment will make the
waters a little safer at Grand Lake St. Marys, Ohio's largest inland lake.
"We're out there looking for people who are in trouble or who are
going to get in trouble," Clem said.
Flotilla detachment members will be available to complete complimentary
watercraft inspections Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at their St. Marys headquarters
from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Office hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
They will look for the presence of state and U.S. Coast Guard required safety items such
as flotation devices, fire extinguishers, dewatering devices, visual distress signals and
others. Based on the inspections, watercraft operators will then be given guidance on what
items they need to get or what changes they should make to their vessels to comply with
Ohio and Coast Guard laws.
Grand Lake flotilla detachment members are Clem, Dennis Glass of
Celina, Nick Kiel of St. Marys, Chip May of Sidney, Steve Daniel of Covington, Bruce
Patrick of Lima and Todd Cosart of Harrod.
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