Additional Life Jacket Loaner Stations open
The community has the opportunity to borrow life jackets from additional locations before heading out on the water thanks to a grant provided by the West Coast Inland Navigation District, and the Sea Tow Foundation.
Sea Tow Fort Myers co-owner Heather O’Brien said they have provided the loaner life jacket stations for many years now, but they are always looking to make it bigger and better situation.
She already helps operate and maintain seven loaner stations in the area.
“It bothers me when you see a boat and they don’t have life jackets. Everyone needs to wear life jackets. If you are out there boating, you need to wear something. We have them here,” she said.
The grant provided through the Waterway Development Program and the Lee County Board of County Commissioners has paved the way for an additional three Life Jacket Loaner Stations, which will be unveiled at Sweetwater Landing Marina in Fort Myers, Paradise Boat Rentals in Cape Coral and Jasper’s Bait at the Refuge at Punta Rassa. Two more stations will be unveiled by late spring around the Fort Myers area.
The five additional Life Jacket Loaner Stations are among the more than 550 scattered across the United States. The Sea Tow Foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner Program has provided nearly 50,000 life jackets since 2008, through its many partnerships with local business and organizations across the country.
“Heather’s dedication to promoting boater safety in Fort Myers is clear and unwavering, which is why applying for this grant through the Sea Tow Foundation made so much sense,” said Gail R. Kulp, the Sea Tow Foundation’s executive director, in a prepared statement. “Her continued success in opening and maintaining Life Jacket Loaner Stations demonstrates her dedication to the Foundation’s cause, and we are so thankful to have a partner like her. She exemplifies everything the Sea Tow Foundation is all about.”
O’Brien said they just had 50 boxes of life jackets delivered.
The stations provide life jackets to boaters free of charge to borrow and use in sizes ranging from infant to adult XL. One of the higher demanded life jackets are for toddlers 30 to 50 pounds.
O’Brien said there are life jackets available at the Boat House at the Cape Coral Yacht Club.
“I really want to put them at the Punta Rassa boat ramp, but they would be gone tomorrow. When someone babysits them a little bit better, people are more prone to bring them back to you,” she said. “We want to provide them the jackets, but please return them. It’s a loaner. That way anyone that needs one can go and grab one whenever they need them.”
O’Brien said if you have company coming into town, stop by the loaner station and pick up and borrow what is needed. She said with kids constantly growing, the loaner stations are a great way to ensure the safety of the child.
“If they need them for a couple of days, they can check them out,” O’Brien said.
The importance of wearing a life jacket is something she cannot express enough, even to those who are great swimmers.
“Last year we pulled 26 people out of the water from boats that are flipping. We see the ugly side of things happening. A good portion of those people did not have life jackets on. How long can you tread water when people can’t see you,” O’Brien asked.
She said it’s not about whether you can, or cannot swim, but how long you are treading in rough waters until found.
“Lee County is one of the highest places for boating accidents. Seventy-five percent of boating accidents are human error. Most people that actually drown, drown because they were not wearing life jackets. If you are wearing a life jacket it can save your life, literally,” O’Brien said. “We know that boating can be dangerous and we want to make sure you have a lifeline that you can borrow.”
To find a Life Jacket Loaner Station, visit www.boatingsafety.com.