Flotilla 17 sets goals, honors members Coast Guard auxiliary plans public safety effort, gets new leaders

January 26, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Boating safety and environmental safeguards were oft-repeated topics at yesterday's 59th Changing of the Guard for Flotilla 17, among the first Coast Guard auxiliary units in Baltimore.

The traditional ceremony included honoring members of the previous watch under Cmdr. David Clauss, swearing in new officers and presenting awards for 1997.

Improving public education and recruiting will be the top goals for Maury Garfield and Jim Poorman, newly elected commander and vice commander of Flotilla 17, a volunteer organization whose members work with the Coast Guard to update waterway charts, perform search and rescue missions and vessel inspections, teach boating and navigation courses and help with special water-based events.

Flotilla 17 will assist with crowd control, for example, during the Whitbread Round the World Race scheduled to arrive in Annapolis and Baltimore in April.

Poorman, honored as Auxiliarist of the Year for 1997, said the flotilla operates about 10 vessels and several aircraft to patrol waterways from the Inner Harbor to Gibson Island.

Flotilla 17 has 27 members and operates within the District V Southern Region, which patrols waterways from Maryland to North Carolina with 3,700 auxiliary members.

Nationwide, 34,000 auxiliary volunteers assist the Coast Guard, which has about 42,000 full-time members, said Clauss.

Poorman became hooked on the community service performed by Flotilla 17 members after attending a boating course about two years ago.

"I learned so much from the boating courses, and the people involved were like family and great to work with," he said.

Poorman is an electronics communications salesman by day and often devotes from two to six hours in the evening to Flotilla 17 affairs. His wife, Kristine, is a graphic designer and supports the flotilla by designing educational posters and other materials, he said.

For George Beneman, director of production operations for Maryland Public Television, involvement was more by design.

"I wanted to improve my boating skills and give something back to the community and found that joining the flotilla was a great way to do that," he said.

"Offering free vessel inspection mainly involves letting boaters know what safety equipment is required and making certain they know how to use it," he said.

Beneman, who has been involved in the flotilla for about eight years, has found skippers with life jackets wrapped in plastic, or possessing outdated flares and having no clue how to use them.

Prevention of environmental damage is also an important aspect of what auxiliary members do to educate the public.

"It's easier to teach safety and environmental protection than go find them or clean up an oil spill," Clauss said.

Pub Date: 1/26/98

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