Coast­guard makes waves at awards

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - GE­OFF VAUSE

Learn­ing to be safe at sea is prov­ing a pop­u­lar fam­ily past­time in Pic­ton.

It’s also an award-winner, with Coast­guard Marl­bor­ough sail­ing off with four gongs at the re­cent Na­tional Coast­guard Awards of Ex­cel­lence, in­clud­ing one for their pop­u­lar boat­ing safety work­shops.

There were seven award cat­e­gories, and Marl­bor­ough’s David St John took three of them in­di­vid­u­ally, in­clud­ing the supreme award of Hutch­wilco Coast­guard Vol­un­teer of the Year.

St John said he was par­tic­u­larly pleased with the Com­mu­nity Re­la­tions Ac­tiv­ity of the Year award, which he and his crew won for their safety work­shops - now com­pleted by more than 200 boat­ies since it was set up a year ago.

‘‘We need to recog­nise a few oth­ers for this,’’ St John said. ‘‘Luke Gro­gan [Marl­bor­ough Har­bour­mas­ter] and Julie Moor­house did a lot of work de­sign­ing the course con­tent, mak­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion for fund­ing and ad­min­is­ter­ing the course.’’

He said the na­tional reg­u­la­tor ‘‘for all things marine’’, Mar­itime New Zealand, should also be thanked for stump­ing up the money to keep the course oper­at­ing. St John said the course was unique in that it at­tracted fam­i­lies.

‘‘Thanks to Mar­itime New Zealand it’s a free course and we can also of­fer a free lunch. Cour­ses like this else­where cost at least $200 which is too much for famil- ies,’’ St John said.

About a quar­ter of the par­tic­i­pants had been in fam­ily groups, and St John said keep­ing the course to a sin­gle day, and at no cost, was a winner.

‘‘We get hus­bands, wives, kids, and we keep a strong boat­ing com­po­nent so they get out on the wa­ter. This type of course is usu­ally for skip­pers and the like, so we reach a dif­fer­ent demo- graphic,’’ St John said.

‘‘The feed­back is great. One per­son said ‘I didn’t know how much I didn’t know’ which is en­cour­ag­ing. We don’t get too heavy and hard into any­thing, so that helps keep the kids in­ter­ested, and we en­gage the kids and in­volve them in ac­tiv­i­ties, like in­flat­ing the life­jack­ets.

‘‘Most kids are smart and their up­take is good. We cover lots of stuff and that also holds their at­ten­tion.’’

St John said par­tic­i­pants ap­pre­ci­ated the lo­cal knowl­edge. ‘‘It’s tai­lored to the area and risks as­so­ci­ated with here; volatile weather, com­mon trou­ble spots like some of the cor­ners on bays.’’

Nav­i­gat­ing ship­ping lanes was also a key in­gre­di­ent, with 18 to 20 large ships pass­ing through Queen Char­lotte Sound ev­ery day. The prac­ti­cal boat­ing com­po­nent took peo­ple out on the wa­ter on coast­guard res­cue boats for a first­hand look at some of the risks.

‘‘We also tai­lor it to peo­ple on the day. If we get a lot of trailer boat own­ers we’ll focus on that, or yachts - we match it to the class on the day,’’ St John said.

St John also won the Cen­tury Yuasa Res­cue Vol­un­teer of the Year and played a key role in a fourth with Coast­guard Marl­bor­ough win­ning Unit of the Year.

There are 2052 coast­guard vol­un­teers across the coun­try and they res­cued 2702 peo­ple last year.

GE­OFF VAUSE

Coast­guard Marl­bor­ough’s Janette St John helps a trainee into his life jacket at the pop­u­lar boat­ing safety work­shop held at Pic­ton.

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