New commander for boat safety group

Published 10:08 pm Monday, March 13, 2017

Locals helping boat owners stay safe recently had a change in leadership.

Smithfield resident Frank Brown was sworn in as the 54th Nansemond River Power Squadron commander on March 4. United States Power Squadrons strive for safer boating through education, civil service and community.

Brown and his wife, Grace, joined the squadron as a family a decade ago.

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“I’m glad they accepted me and elected me,” Brown said.

Nansemond River Power Squadron was founded in 1964 and has 70 members. Hampton Roads has 190 members and five squadrons based around the Chesapeake Bay. It is the largest recreational boating organization worldwide, with more than 35,000 members.

Brown said the No. 1 priority of each squadron is to help boaters safely use their vessels.

“We had 20 or more boating accident deaths in the state of Virginia last year, and that’s 20 too many,” he said.

The squadron offers classes and seminars on fire extinguisher use, dangerous weather conditions and other essentials. They’re also taught how to steer their boat properly.

“A lot of people buy a boat and have no idea,” Brown said. “They think it’s like driving a car.”

He said when he bought his first boat 12 years ago, he was just taught how to go faster.

“I had no idea how to control it,” he said. “That’s when I decided I got to learn how to do this correctly.”

The squadron inspects boats to make sure they are in good condition and properly equipped. Each boat that passes inspections is given a decal that tells the Coast Guard it is safe for use.

“If we check it and there’s a problem, you fix it,” Brown said. “If the Coast Guard stops you and there’s a problem, you get fined.”

The members help the Chesapeake Bay itself by working with the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. They volunteer in cleanup activities and raising awareness.

“It is the lifeblood for many of our fishing people,” he said.

Monthly cruises will start in May, when members will meet by boat at Smithfield Station. Some members don’t have boats themselves and will get rides from other members. Brown said these cruises are both practice and good company.

“It’s social time and most of the time we just have fun,” Brown said. “It also lets people put to use the boating education they’ve learned.”