Kids prepare for the future by training today

The lapping of the waves against the boat’s hull was barely audible over the excited chatter of the kids. ‘Coming up,’ shouted the coxswain from inside the cabin. In a flash, eyes widened as the engines roared to life and the boat picked up speed. This was going to be a trip they would never forget.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Hawkeye, the station dog and mascot at Coast Guard Station Lorain, Ohio, welcomes home the crew and Spirit of America group, following an underway trip in Lake Erie aboard the stations 45-foot response boat, July 18, 2014. Hawkeye kept a careful watch on them while the group toured the station and got underway on its boats. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher M. Yaw

Petty Officer 3rd Class Hawkeye, the station dog and mascot at Coast Guard Station Lorain, Ohio, welcomes home the crew and Spirit of America group, following an underway trip in Lake Erie aboard the stations 45-foot response boat, July 18, 2014.
Hawkeye kept a careful watch on them while the group toured the station and got underway on its boats.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher M. Yaw

On a sunny mid-July day, the crew at Coast Guard Station Lorain, Ohio, set aside some time to help educate boaters. These weren’t what many would consider to be you ‘average’ boater though. These boaters were kids with the Spirit of America program.

“The benefit to our young people being able to tour and be on board the Coast Guard vessels goes beyond priceless,” said Cecilia Duer, the president of Spirit of America.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Ayriss, a boatswain's mate at Coast Guard Station Lorain, Ohio, gives safety instructions to a group of Spirit of America participants before getting underway on the stations 45-foot response boat, July 18, 2014. As a past graduate of the program, Ayriss was in a unique position to lead the group on their tour of the station and its boats. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher M. Yaw

Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Ayriss, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Station Lorain, Ohio, gives safety instructions to a group of Spirit of America participants before getting underway on the stations 45-foot response boat, July 18, 2014.
As a past graduate of the program, Ayriss was in a unique position to lead the group on their tour of the station and its boats.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher M. Yaw

During their visit, the kids were able to ask questions, see what station life is like and even took a ride on Station Lorain’s 45-foot response boat. What is more, their tour was led by a past graduate of the program, Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Ayriss.“The program has come a long way since I went through and it’s a memorable experience for any child, whether or not they are boaters,” said Ayriss. “I was not new to boating, but the program gave me an opportunity as a child to experience different dynamics of boating.”

The tour was more than just a tour though. It was a requirement for the kids’ large vessel education portion of the program.

It provides the children with a look at a lifetime career, said Duer. Many of our young people have found their way to the Coast Guard, military agencies, state and local law enforcement and other careers involving boating.

The kids were also able to see what happens when the unexpected happens.

Just before returning from their lunch break, the Station Lorain crew had to respond to an uncorrelated mayday call that came in, interrupting the tour.

After searching and querying other boaters in the area, it was determined to be a false distress and the crew was able to return to base and continue with the program.

Just as with the group the crew had taken out in the morning, Petty Officer Ayriss started with getting everyone in the second group aboard and giving a rundown of all the safety procedures.

After helping the crew members clear lines, the kids settled in on the deck while Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Jackson, the crew’s coxswain, expertly navigated the boat out to Lake Erie.

Following the transit out into the lake, Ayriss kept most of the group busy by asking and answering questions.

Meanwhile, inside the cabin, Jackson and Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Garver were busy showing the kids, one at a time, the ropes of steering the response boat.

Unlike most boats, the 45-foot response boat is controlled using two joysticks. One controls the throttle, while the other controls direction. Another unique aspect is that control can be changed from one side of the boat to the other.

 

Alissa, a Spirit of America Youth Boating Program participant, takes her turn at the helm of Coast Guard Station Lorain's 45-foot response boat while underway in Lake Erie, July 18, 2014. Alissa and her fellow program participants spent the day with the crew of Station Lorain touring the station, its boats and learning about the Coast Guard's many missions. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Cecilia Duer

Alissa, a Spirit of America Youth Boating Program participant, takes her turn at the helm of Coast Guard Station Lorain’s 45-foot response boat while underway in Lake Erie, July 18, 2014.
Alissa and her fellow program participants spent the day with the crew of Station Lorain touring the station, its boats and learning about the Coast Guard’s many missions.
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Cecilia Duer

The kids were able to steer while Garver kept control of the throttle. Many twists, turns and figure eights later, everyone had been able to take a turn at the helm and it was time to head in.The transit back to the station was the same as before, excitement included and everyone aboard was happily greeted with barks and a wag of the tail by Station Lorain’s mascot, Hawkeye, as the boat pulled up to the dock.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Hawkeye, the station dog and mascot at Coast Guard Station Lorain, Ohio, shows his appreciation to some of the kids with the Spirit of America youth boating education program during a group photo at Station Lorain, July 18, 2014. Hawkeye kept a careful watch on them while the group toured the station and got underway on its boats. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher M. Yaw

Petty Officer 3rd Class Hawkeye, the station dog and mascot at Coast Guard Station Lorain, Ohio, shows his appreciation to some of the kids with the Spirit of America youth boating education program during a group photo at Station Lorain, July 18, 2014.
Hawkeye kept a careful watch on them while the group toured the station and got underway on its boats.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher M. Yaw

“After being underway with the crew and the SOA group, we all agreed that it was the best tour we have ever done,” said Ayriss.Finally, after Hawkeye settled down and a few group shots had been taken with the boat, the group headed inside to the station’s mess deck to learn more about day-to-day station life.

There, the crew talked to the group about their jobs, why they enjoy doing them and safety as well, which is a large part of what Spirit of America teaches.

Spirit of America is changing the way we think about recreational boating safety education,” Duer said. “Like bike helmets and seat belts, because we grew up wearing them we do – it’s that simple for life jackets too.”

Before long, with more questions flying, it was Petty Officer 3rd Class Alexa Vargas’ turn to lead the pack. The walking tour of the station proper went quickly and before everyone knew it, the time had come to say so long.

“It was an incredible experience to be able to be on hand and show the children what Coast Guard men and women do on a day-to-day basis,” Ayriss added.

After the goodbyes were said, the kids headed back to the Lorain Sailing and Yacht Club where a graduation ceremony was held and looked forward to next year’s tour.

“The faces that lit up with happiness, excitement and a new found confidence when they stepped foot on board that Coast Guard vessel, and then at the helm spoke volumes, “ commented Duer. “I could not be more privileged to work with the Coast Guard and the coordinators and instructors that we do across the country. They make the programs happen!”

Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Garver, a boatswain's mate at Coast Guard Station Lorain, shows Joseph, a Spirit of America program participant, the ropes of driving the station's 45-foot response boat while underway in Lake Erie, July 18, 2014. Garver took time at the helm with each participant during their visit to the Station. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher M. Yaw

Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Garver, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Station Lorain, shows Joseph, a Spirit of America program participant, the ropes of driving the station’s 45-foot response boat while underway in Lake Erie, July 18, 2014.
Garver took time at the helm with each participant during their visit to the Station.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher M. Yaw