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Coast Guard auxiliary safety inspections ensure watercraft are good to go

| Monday, May 6, 2013, 4:12 p.m.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Eric Bartko (right) of Glassport stands by as his boat is inspected by Bob Brandenstein, staff officer for vessel examination with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, during voluntary safety inspections Sunday, May 5, 2013, at Loyalhanna Reservoir.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
A decal indicating that the vessel has passed its safety inspection is placed on the boat owned by Eric Bartko of Glassport after being certified by inspectors from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary on Sunday, May 5, 2013, at Loyalhanna Reservoir.

Bob and Rebecca Young may steer a party barge most days of the week, but they take water safety seriously.

The Penn Township couple brought their pontoon boat to Loyalhanna Lake for a free safety inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

On a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon, the Youngs watched as several members of the auxiliary examined their boat for life vests and other safety features.

“It's very important to be safe out on the water,” Bob Young said.

The couple takes their boat out two to three times a week in the summer.

They passed the inspection with flying colors, earning a decal from the Coast Guard.

“We were going boating and decided it would be a good idea to get it checked,” Bob Young said.

After the 20-minute inspection, the Youngs were off on Loyalhanna Lake.

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary past commander Anthony Buyny said that the inspections are all about raising safety awareness.

This is the second year for the inspections at the Bush Recreation Center on Loyalhanna Lake. About 20 boats had been inspected by 1 p.m. Sunday.

Buyny said this will become a yearly event for inspecting kayaks, canoes, jet skis, fishing boats and other recreational vessels, which have to be registered but not inspected.

“We want to encourage people to wear life jackets,” he said, citing statistics that in 79 percent of recreational boat drownings the victim was not wearing a life jacket. “We need to educate people.”

Thomas A. McAfoose, park ranger at Loyalhanna Lake, said he appreciated the auxiliary's work on boat inspections.

“Water safety is nothing to balk at,” he said. “These guys do an excellent job. My hat is off to them.”

Buyny said he hopes to inspect even more boats next year.

The inspection is free, and there are no consequences for not passing. It just lets boat owners know what they need to do to make their vessel ship shape.

“We don't get paid for what we do,” Buyny said. “We do it because the Coast Guard appreciates what we do.”

Eric Bartko of Glassport said he felt good that his boat passed inspection.

“It makes sure I'm not slacking,” he said. “And in case there's something not working right.”

Bartko was out fishing before bringing his boat by for inspection.

He said boat safety is key because it affects other people, such as other boaters and even people watching from the shore.

“It's a good job that needs to be done,” Bartko said. “A lot of people cut corners.”

Kate Wilcox is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or kwilcox@tribweb.com.

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