Two Coast Guardsmen boarded the fishing vessel Papa Whiskey Tuesday morning for a voluntary commercial fishing vessel dockside safety exam. The vessel passed inspection and received the Coast Guard issued decal.
Petty Officer 1st Class Jacinto Montez and Petty Officer 2nd Class David Simonds came to Kenai from the United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment in Homer to inspect the vessel.
Montez said that while the exams are voluntary, sooner rather than later, they would be mandatory, probably in 2015.
“This is like a safety net for them,” Montez said. “It is voluntary, but abiding by the law is not.”
Two teams of examiners will be in Kenai on July 2 to conduct commercial fishing exams for other vessels to receive decals. Those interested can sign-up at the Copper River Seafoods office or fishers can hand their life ring buoy off their bow. Appointments are also available.
“We will come out to do these anytime,” Montez said.
While Simonds spoke with the boats owner, Sterling resident Paul Warner, in the cabin about necessary nautical equipment; Montez was on the deck of the 27-foot boat checking for the required life saving elements.
Montez said that three basic items needed are a buoy, immersion suit and an emergency position indicating radio beacon also referred to as an Epirb.
Montez said the life ring buoy needed to have the name of boat and reflective tape on it, as well as 60 feet of line.
The immersion suits, one for each passenger on the boat, were each checked thoroughly from head to toe. Montez paid special attention to the seams on the hands and feet, as well as the zipper and light. Reflective tape and the ship’s name also need to be present.
“We check them all,” he said.
After the complete exam, it was clear the suits were newly purchased.
“Brand new suits, huh,” he said to Warner.
The Epirb is an emergency device that uses a radio signal to alert satellites or passing aircraft to a vessels position. Montez checked the registration and expiration date of the device.
“If the boat were to sink, this would come to the surface,” Montez said. ‘This could save someone’s life for sure.”
Warner purchased the boat in April and has spent the past few days working to get it ready to fish in the Kasilof River. While the Papa Whiskey is the first boat he has owned, he said he grew up fishing and said the exam was not new to him.
“This is not my first encounter doing something like this,” Warner said.
Warner noticed by the decal that the boat was apart of the program when he purchased it.
“So I wanted to go through the process, … to keep the boat in the program,” he said.
Voluntary exams by Coast Guard are available for vessels, all shapes and sizes, that sail in Alaska’s waters. Simonds said they have performed exams on 26-foot skiffs as well as long line boats and crab boats.
Montez said safety equipment regulations apply to all boats fishing in Alaska, the voluntary exams just help to make sure vessels are compliant, otherwise there is more of a chance the Coast Guard may board a boat out at sea, and if it is not compliant, the voyage could be terminated and the captain fined.
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org