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NRPS sets boat checkups

The Nansemond River Power Squadron had a dozen boats visiting Smithfield Station last weekend.

The Nansemond River Power Squadron had a dozen boats visiting Smithfield Station last weekend.

For the past 53 years, the Nansemond River Power Squadron has been helping make boating on local waterways safe.

Today, members of NRPA – a nonprofit organization for Hampton Roads’ motorboat operators — will be in Chesapeake conducting free boat safety inspections. Boaters can bring their vessels to Elizabeth River Park, 1400 Elizabeth River Way, between 1 and 4 p.m.

Although annual safety inspections are not mandatory, they do minimize boaters’ chances of being stopped and fined for operating an unsafe boat, according to Lt. Commander Frank Brown.

The NRPS has 12 members certified to check boats in accordance with U.S. Coast Guard requirements. Last year, the organization conducted 354 vessel checks, the second highest of 31 squadrons in a district that runs from Virginia to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, said NRPS member Larry Rountree.

Examiners will check to make sure the boat is registered by state or documented with the Coast Guard; that identification is clearly visible on the boat; and that boats have a minimum of one lifejacket for every person on the boat, Brown said. Legally, in Virginia, anyone under age 13 is required to wear a lifejacket.

Using lifejackets is the most important — and most ignored — rule for safe boating, Brown said. None of the seven people killed in boating accidents in Virginia this year were wearing lifejackets, he said.

“The saddest thing is that lifejackets might have made the difference,” Brown said, adding that May 21-27 is National Safe Boating Week. “People don’t like to wear them … but they save lives.”

The NRPS also regularly offers boating safety courses, including the nine-hour Virginia Boating Safety Education class that all motorboat operators must complete by July 1.

The NRPA is always looking to recruit new members and welcomes people of all ages, Rountree said. Anyone interested in attending a meeting or one a boating event can visit the organization’s website, nrpowersquadron.com.