Power Squadron earns grant to promote children’s boating safety

Deception Pass Sail and Power Squadron received a $500 grant this spring that will benefit the Whidbey and Fidalgo communities by offering free kids’ boating safety classes.

The grant awarded by the Northwest Yacht Brokers Association will also help fund more children’s “loaner” lifejackets at the Oak Harbor Marina for fishing or boating.

The grant is part of the NYBA’s efforts to promote boating participation throughout the region.

“This is the second year in a row that the NYBA has awarded us this generous grant,” DPSPS instructor Chip White said. “Not only does this save lives, but it introduces youth to fun and adventure in the Puget Sound.”

DPSPS will hold a series of free programs to teach kids from Whidbey and Fidalgo islands small boat safety and handling skills.

Topics will include proper wearing of life jackets, rudimentary navigation rules, paddling skills, how to handle emergencies and weather fundamentals.

The grant will allow the program to expand to include children up to 12 years old by acquiring additional life jackets and course material. Originally the program was offered to youths 5 to 8.

The state’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order has postponed all of the squadron’s events and classes, but dates for Boating Safety for Kids will be scheduled and announced as soon as possible, according to White.

White said the program content is serious, but the focus is fun.

“We teach and inspire them to boat safely,” White said. “There is an exercise called ‘sinking’ where several kids get in a small boat on land with life jackets scattered under their seats.

When we call out ‘sinking,’ we give them 20 seconds to don their life jackets. It’s chaotic and fun, but so essential to safety on the water.”

“We aim to instill the understanding of how and why to always wear a lifejacket to be safe,” he added.

The most enjoyable activity, according to White, is “Saving Grandpa.”

In the exercise, grandpa falls overboard, putting the kids in charge and requiring them to keep themselves safe while rescuing grandpa at the same time.

“The kids learn how to make and toss a throw bag to save grandpa,” White said.

The children get to get to keep the bag after the class is over.

The Deception Pass Sail and Power Squadron is a 44-year-old nonprofit organization. It is a member of the United States Power Squadrons, the world’s largest boating education organization. DPSPS has over 75 members from Whidbey and Fidalgo islands.