Published DateLACONIA — This summer, for the first time in its 66-year history, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will be deployed on freshwater other than the Great Lakes when members of Flotilla 2-8, headquartered at the U.S. Coast Guard Station, Portsmouth Harbor take to the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee.
Sean Skillings of Milton, staff officer for public affairs, said that while the Auxiliary has been teaching marine safety and inspecting vessels on the lake for many years, this year it will also patrol the lake this summer and, in partnership with the U.S. Power Squadron, offer a range of educational and training programs.
Created by Congress in 1939 amid growing threats of war, the Auxiliary numbers 36,000 volunteers who support the Coast Guard in all but its law enforcement and military operations. Its members receive the same education and training as their regular counterparts and wear the same uniforms, with silver buttons and braid in place of the gold worn by regulars.
Skillings said that Flotilla 2-8 numbers some 70 members, about half with military experience, and is responsible for the Atlantic coastline between Kennebunkport, Maine and Hampton, New Hampshire. Members of the Auxiliary operate their own vessels, which Skillings said become "authorized platforms" while on duty and are reimbursed for their fuel costs. He said that the Auxiliary assist with shepherding large ships like freighters and tankers in and out of Portsmouth Harbor as well as patrol the coastal waters and navigable rivers.
The Auxiliary provides instruction in all aspects of boating safety and basic navigation as well as offers courtesy inspections of vessels to ensure they are seaworthy and property equipped, Skillings said, noting that courses are posted on the Flotilla's website, www.uscgauxnh.com.
Although the Auxiliary responds to emergencies, Skillings said that members primarily serve as the "eyes and ears" of the New Hampshire Marine Patrol. "If we see someone operating recklessly , we contact the Marine Patrol and if a boat is disabled we'll call for a tow and stay with it until it arrives," he said."We're not there to set speed traps."
Skillings expected the Auxiliary to deploy three boats with crews of between three and five on Lake Winnipesaukee during the summer months. "Our presence may make the lake safer for everyone and it provides an opportunity for us to train crews on calmer waters," he said.