Tips to Survive a Fall Into Cold Water

by R.J. Garren, and the US Army Corps of Engineers

It takes some skill for anyone to survive a fall into cold water and knowing more about these techniques could help save your life. Wearing a life jacket drastically increases your chances of survival in cold water. It’s extremely difficult to put one on after you fall overboard, but virtually impossible in cold water. Plus, in the second “swim failure” stage of cold-water immersion when you lose your ability to use your extremities (e.g. hands, arms, legs) you may not even be able to hold onto one.

Surviving the first “cold shock” stage of cold-water immersion, with the help of wearing a life jacket, involves getting control of your breathing. Anyone who has survived this experience of suddenly encountering cold water knows that feeling of the involuntary torso reflex and those first gasps of breath. To survive the first few minutes, you must stay calm and stop hyperventilating, but this can be challenging, even for strong swimmers. There is a technique that may help prevent hyperventilation and it involves breathing out through pursed lips. It’s critical to remain calm and not panic during this first stage of cold-water immersion.

I’ve heard some people say they don’t wear a life jacket because they can swim and they always stay close to the shore when they are boating. If you survive long enough to enter cold-water immersion’s second stage, which is referred to as swim failure or cold-water incapacitation, your ability to swim is not going to help you much. Cold-water experts estimate that you will have less than 10 minutes when you can still move your hands, arms, and legs. However, any movement in cold water is going to deplete your body of heat 25–30 times faster than cold air. The Lifesaving Society research reports that 43% of people who drowned in cold water were 2 meters (6.6 feet) from safety (e.g. shore, boat, dock) and 66% were approximately 15 meters (49.2 feet) from safety.

Dr. Gordon Giesbriecht (a.k.a. Professor Popsicle) coined a phrase to help people understand the first three stages of cold-water immersion and the approximate time each stage takes. It’s called the 1–10–1 rule. It refers to you having one minute to control your breathing, less than 10 minutes for self-rescue, and 1 hour before you become unconscious due to hypothermia.

Hypothermia is when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. During this third stage of cold-water immersion, it’s best to keep as much of your body out of the water as possible. For example, if there is a capsized boat, floating cooler, or anything you can climb up on it will increase your chances of survival. If that’s not possible, there is a position, aided by wearing a life jacket, called H.E.L.P. or Heat Escape Lessening Posture that can reduce the rate of losing body heat. This position involves drawing your knees up towards your face, grasping your arms around your lower legs, and holding yourself into a floating ball. If you’re with anyone else and everyone is wearing a life jacket, there is another position called Huddle. It involves staying upright in the water and circling your arms around the shoulders of others and holding on as close together as you can.

The specific amount of time you can survive these three stages of cold-water immersion depends on the water temperature, clothing, body type, and your behavior. This may be the one time in your life where body fat could actually help you. Wearing clothing is another key factor in surviving and cotton is not the best, but it still helps insulate your body. The best thing to wear is layers of clothes, made of wool or other water-resistant materials. Clothing can help trap air and increase your ability to float for longer periods of time. Even shoes or boots can help insulate your feet from losing heat. There’s a misconception that people can drown from the weight of their wet clothes in the water, but wet clothes or shoes are only heavy out of the water. It’s a simple physics concept, but unfortunately, many people have to experience it themselves before they will believe this.

You could do all the right things described above and still become unconscious from hypothermia. However, hypothermia can happen with or without drowning. If you survived long enough to be rescued, then you are in danger of the fourth stage of cold-water immersion, called post-rescue collapse. These people need immediate medical attention to be properly re-warmed because they are subject to cardiac arrest. They must be handled gently. If possible gently remove their wet clothes and cover them with dry blankets until medical help arrives.

The bottom line is wearing a life jacket can help you survive cold-water immersion. Hopefully, you never have to use any of these techniques, but remember the 1–10–1 rule may help increase your chances of survival.

To Learn More, visit  View the Marine Board’s recreational boating statistics in Oregon.


In Oregon, 85% of recreational boating fatalities involve people who drowned and were not wearing a life jacket.  

Follow the Life Jackets Worn…Nobody Mourns campaign at Please Wear It on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and read all the campaign blogs at


I-GO: Infrastructure Improvements for America’s Great Outdoors Critical to Travel and Tourism Industry

From the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable.  To read the full Travel Weekly article, click here.

Image of the M. James Gleason (42nd Street) Boat Ramp on the Columbia River

M. James Gleason (42nd Street) Boat Ramp on the Columbia River

Repairing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure is essential to keeping travel and tourism booming.  That’s the message in a featured article in Travel Weekly, a leading travel industry publication.

U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow sounded the alarm, saying that travel will stall if infrastructure needs are not met.  “If we don’t, we’re locked  We cannot grow the industry,” he said.  “We have to solve it, or it will be the pinch point that will shut off U.S. travel and not go further.  It’s critical, but we have to make it a priority.  These things don’t happen overnight.  We have to get Congress to take some action.”

But infrastructure doesn’t just mean roads, bridges, and airports.  It also means making improvements that enhance visitor experiences on America’s public lands and waters, particularly national parks, according to Derrick Crandall, President of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable and Counselor to the National Park Hospitality Association.  WiFi availability, interactive apps, and web-based fee payments are just some examples of ways to modernize and improve national park experiences, he said, with public-private partnerships playing a key role.

“We’re [also] capable of doing a much better job with urban visitors and younger visitors,” he said, noting that augmented reality games and tools could engage a new generation. “We are struggling particularly with younger Americans to get them outdoors and active. But we could do that if we use technology.”  Park modernization is “never going to happen,” he added, “without some extraordinary new thinking.”

Infrastructure improvements on public lands and waters are just some of the issues being addressed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s new “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, which has been asked to provide the Department of the Interior with solutions that will give Americans more access to their public lands and waters and improve visitor experiences.

For more information on the “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, click here.


Infrastructure conversations in Oregon are happening, including the recreational boating arena in which the Marine Board is a key player.  The Marine Board contributes nearly $10 million per biennium in state boater funds (motorboat registration and title fees) and leverages federal grant dollars to help fund boating facility infrastructure projects around the state.  Learn more about the Marine Board’s Boating Facilities Program.

St. Helens City Docks on the Columbia River in St. Helens, Oregon.

Marine Board Hosting Open House to Discuss 2019 Legislative Concepts

The Marine Board will be hosting an open house to discuss the agency’s legislative concepts on September 19, at 7 pm, at the Marine Board office, 435 Commercial Street NE, in Salem.  Recreational boaters are encouraged to attend and ask questions.  Agency staff will be on-hand to provide background and answers.

Flyer announcing Marine Board Open HouseThe Oregon State Marine Board has an ambitious plate of legislative concepts for 2019.  The concepts aim to improve efficiency and safety while adapting to changing boat use and increasing costs to serve Oregon boaters.

“The agency has eight concepts and many came about based on feedback from stakeholders over the last couple of years and are woven into the agency’s strategic plan.  It’s a lot to hoist, but the Board is very responsive to the needs of recreational boaters, stakeholders, and partners and we’re always looking for ways to improve our services,” says Larry Warren, Director of the Marine Board.  “These concepts get the agency closer to fulfilling our mission; serving Oregon’s recreational boaters through education, enforcement, access, and environmental stewardship for a safe and enjoyable experience.”

Two other open houses are scheduled in October:

DATE: October 16, 2018
TIME: 7 pm
LOCATION: Eagle Crest Resort, 1522 Cline Falls Rd, Redmond, OR 97756
DATE: October 22, 2018
TIME: 7 pm
LOCATION: Southwestern Oregon Community College, Empire Hall -Lakeview E & F
1988 Newmark Ave, Coos Bay, OR 97420

For legislative concept details, visit


The Marine Board is funded by registration, title fees and marine fuel taxes paid by motorized boaters.  No lottery, general fund tax dollars or local facility parking fees are used to support the agency or its programs.  Boater-paid fees go back to boaters in the form of boating safety services (on-the-water enforcement, training, and equipment), education/outreach materials and boating access facility grants (boat ramps, docks, parking, construction, and maintenance).  The Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit program is dedicated funding to pay for border inspection stations, decontamination equipment, inspectors, and signage/outreach materials.  The Mandatory Education Program is self-supporting and revenue helps pay for education materials and boater education cards.  For more information about the Marine Board and its programs, visit 

Smoke Alarms and Live-Aboard Boats -Early Detection is Key

When the air temperatures start dropping in the fall, many live-aboard boaters and cruising boats (including sailboats with cabins) turn up the heat and spend more time inside.  But many of these boats are not equipped with smoke alarms.  Early detection has proven to save lives in homes and RV’s, so why are smoke alarms rarely found in boat cabin spaces?  They’re currently not required.  However, the Oregon State Marine Board encourages owners to consider purchasing and installing a reliable smoke alarm because there’s a risk of fire on boats and fires can happen.

Portland Fire Boat

A fire boat from Portland Fire and Rescue

While not required for recreational boats, the Coast Guard Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter 46 guidelines requires that smoke alarms be installed in the sleeping compartments of small inspected passenger vessels.  An RV rated smoke alarm (label reads UL 217 RV) is approved for use on cruising boats.  Unlike the smoke alarms used in homes, the RV-rated alarms must withstand higher temperature variations, vibrations, humidity, and mild saltwater exposure.  The RV-rated smoke alarm is similarly recommended for use on recreational boats by the National Fire Protection Association.  However, due to the extreme environments in some areas, experts recommend regular inspections and a replacement cycle roughly every five years.

Live-aboard boats and cruising boats have a variety of potential fire dangers, more than a typical home.  Pleasure boats have a high fire load in the form of combustible fuel storage that supplies multiple onboard devices, and AC and DC electrical systems (which are subject to regular moisture that causes corrosion, as well as vibration and jarring as part of the normal use).  A boat’s construction materials are extremely combustible, as are interior furnishings.  According to BoatU.S., 55% of boat fires are electrical in nature and will start in a smoldering state.  Propulsion, fuel, engine and exhaust problems, as well as unattended cooking, careless smoking, heating devices, and other appliances, are also among the causes.  In all of these cases, early detection of smoke can be the key to preventing a fire or stopping it in the early stages.

Many people have smoke alarms in their homes and RV’s, so why not a boat?  This simple device can save lives, protect neighboring boats, docks or structures if the boat is kept at a moorage.  A smoke alarm is the cheapest insurance you can buy for your on-the-water home or pleasure craft.

For more information about the Marine Board and other required equipment, visit

Information about fire extinguishers:


Other Resources:

Boat Fires -Seaworthy Magazine

Causes of Boat Fires -BoatU.S. Magazine

Portland Crews Extinguish Two Boat Fires on Columbia River

LED Lighting -Safety Concerns and Potential VHF-FM Radio/AIS Reception Degradation

Night time navigation requires good sea legs, adaptive night vision, and skills with navigation equipment/charting techniques.  These skills take time to develop, taking into account changing water and weather conditions, traffic, and local etiquette.

New technology has helped improve safety in many areas and created new concerns in others.  Take for example LED lights.  LED lights have become increasingly popular in the last decade, and decreasing cost added with the “coolness factor” are adding to their appeal.  But if you’ve ever been “blinded by the light” it quickly becomes less about being cool and everything about your own operational safety.   For example, many boaters head out before dawn to find a prime fishing spot.  Not unlike driving on the road, it’s easy to be blinded by other boats who are using LED lights, with the added complexity of reflection off the water.

Picture of LED Lights on a boat near Yaquina Bay near daybreak.

LED Lights on a boat near Yaquina Bay near daybreak.

In this picture, the boat is about 200 yards behind the transiting boat with forward-facing LEDs.  The first crest of daylight had already begun, so imagine complete darkness.  This intense lighting can temporarily blind other boaters for several minutes.   For boats where the LEDs are on their back deck facing straight backward, also makes it dangerous for boaters who may be following behind.

Another argument the Marine Board hears about pertains to violating the law because there’s no way that another boater can see their normal navigation lights with the LEDs activated.   On one hand, this is can easily be observed.  The LED lights overpower the red and green bow lights.  On the other hand, there may be more danger created by operating around these boats that cause other operators temporary blindness.

This concern also carries over to the boat ramp when boats have the LEDs on while backing down the ramp in the dark, and blinding everyone else trying to launch.  This scenario has actually played out, leading to physical altercations!

From the U.S. Coast Guard perspective, most LEDs don’t comply with lighting requirements and the directionality of the lights themselves cause concern.  Believe it or not, LED navigation lights, like life jackets, must be U.S. Coast Guard -approved.  Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 830.225 Lights; rules state: On all waters of the state, every boat shall carry and exhibit the lights required by rules promulgated by the State Marine Board.  Such rules shall be designed to prevent collisions and generally promote boating safety.  In promulgating such rules the board may consider lighting requirements and standards adopted by the United States Coast Guard and by federal Statutes [Formerly 488.041]. Oregon is not the only state that has brought safety concerns to the Coast Guard about LED lights over the last few years.

In another twist of events, the Coast Guard issued a Marine Safety Alert on August 15, 2018 “Let us enlighten you about LED lighting! Potential Interference of VHF-FM Radio and AIS Reception.”  Apparently, if the LEDs are installed near antennas, they interfere with radio signaling and increase the audio noise.  This can be a matter of life and death for mariners at sea where minutes matter.  The Coast Guard offered ways to test whether the LEDs cause interference and how to report the make and model of LED lighting and the radios affected, so they can better understand the scope of the problem.  (Click on the link above to learn how to report your testing.)

If you’ve invested in LED lights for your boat, be aware of the impact the lights have on others and your communication equipment.  The red and green directional bow lights and all-round white light provide the necessary intensity for the navigation rules of the road and allow boat operators to optimize their adaptive night vision.  The Marine Board encourages boaters to weigh anchor before activating their LEDs and to consider how the lights may be confusing to other boaters paying heed to the navigation rules.  The other factor is the real impact of temporarily blinding others.  We encourage LED-fitted boaters to be courteous to others and refrain from activating LEDs during launching, retrieving or transit.  Make sure your LEDs are U.S. Coast Guard -approved.  Test your LED lighting and your VHF-FM radio or AIS communication devices and make any modifications to improve the signaling.

Ultimately, everyone has an expectation when they’re going boating.  Whether it’s getting from point A to point B to find the prime fishing hole, or for play, no one wants to be “blinded by the light.”


The Marine Board is funded by registration, title fees and marine fuel taxes paid by motorized boaters.  No lottery, general fund tax dollars or local facility parking fees are used to support the agency or its programs.  Boater-paid fees go back to boaters in the form of boating safety services (on-the-water enforcement, training, and equipment), education/outreach materials, and boating access facility grants (boat ramps, docks, parking, construction and maintenance).  The Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit program is dedicated funding to pay for border inspection stations, decontamination equipment, inspectors, and signage/outreach materials.  The Mandatory Education Program is self-supporting, and revenue helps pay for education materials and boater education cards.  For more information about the Marine Board and its programs, visit


Rules of the Road, Introduction

Over the last 100 years, the evolution of the automobile has changed the daily lives of Americans making them more mobile and expanding individual freedoms. Imagine what it would be like today if we had not developed traffic regulations and laws to maintain some semblance of order on our streets and highways? In 1927, the American Association of State Highway Officials published the first uniform road construction, signage, and traffic regulations. In today’s world, the knowledge and application of these laws are second nature and learning them is a milestone toward adulthood when you get your first driver’s license. It signifies maturity, responsibility, and personal accountability; to be given the right to operate a motor vehicle. It’s sometimes hard to believe that the freedom the automobile has brought us today has transpired in such a brief moment in human history.

Image of a painting of merchant ships from the late 1700's.

Merchant ships from the late 1700’s.

Boating, on the other hand, has a history that dates back centuries. In the early days, *vessel regulations were not needed since the number of vessels navigating the globe were few; and, encounters with other vessels were rare unless they were being taken as a prize! With the world no longer dependent on sail, global expansion and advancements in technology of the 19th century created much more versatile vessels and a need for a system of rules to prevent collisions at sea. In 1889 the United States convened the first international convention to consider regulations for preventing collisions but it was not until 1940 that the regulations for small vessels under 65 feet were established.  A complete reorganization and modernization, the navigation rules were later completed in 1971, which remain the basis for the rules we have today. This is a short recap of nearly 200 years of evolution of the rules, but hopefully, you get a feel for their purpose in enhancing the safety of mariners and boaters alike.

So why is this important?  Let’s go back to 1958. This was when the Federal Boating Act was passed. In the years prior, the nation experienced the highest recorded boating fatality rates.  Although this addressed some of the issues it was not until 1971 when regulatory requirements changed and the Federal Boating Safety Act was put into place requiring manufacturing standards and safety equipment requirements. Because of the new standards, the fatality rates steadily continued to fall and today we see very little change in the numbers. Accidents and fatalities due to vessel design and mechanical problems have virtually become non-existent. The only factor unresolved is the “human factor.”

Graph depicting a decline in boating fatalities since enacting the Federal Boating Safety Act of 1958.

The impact of boating safety laws on recreational boating fatalities over time.

The Coast Guard is initiating human factor interventions using a public health model to help reduce accidents and fatalities. Taking into account human factors, characteristics of the source of harm, and the environment identifies causes and suggests possible interventions. So why bring this up in a discussion about navigation rules? Fatalities are the final result of a chain of events that, if not corrected, lead to that end. So, early intervention can prevent the accident from happening, changing the end result. The leading casual factors in boating accidents are operator behavior and inattention.

Image of a Chesapeake Bay collision between a power boat and sail boat in August 2018.

Chesapeake Bay collision in August 2018. Full article:

Over the past 10 years, operator behavior has been the leading cause of boating accidents nationwide. Alcohol continues to be a contributing factor. Poor operator behavior takes on many forms: distracted operation, failure to keep a lookout, operating at unsafe speed and failure to follow the Navigation Rules. Keeping a proper lookout and safe speed are included in the navigation rules. The basic intent of navigation rules is to prevent collisions but they also reduce congestion, user conflict, and other accidents. Having a basic knowledge and the ability to apply these rules is a fundamental necessity in operating a boat safely. From paddle craft to freighters and everything in between, these rules apply equally with the exception of special circumstances, which are identified in the rules as well.

So if you’re a boater, how does this apply to you?  First, the rules apply to all *vessels. This means every description of watercraft used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water. Best way to understand this is by what is not considered a vessel. These are pool toys or swimming aids such as air mattresses, inner tubes, inflatable flamingos, etc. Rafts, canoes, kayaks, sailboards, kiteboards and stand up paddle boards are considered vessels. Regardless of your choice of vessel, it is incumbent on all vessel operators to prevent collisions.  Continually being aware of your surroundings plays a key role in preventing collisions. Taking immediate and positive action to prevent a collision is the first step.

“Every vessel shall use all available means appropriate to the prevailing conditions to determine if the risk of collision exists. If there is any doubt such risk shall exist.”  One of the mistakes most people make is assuming what the other boater may or may not do.  This is a dangerous guessing game and hesitation costs you time.  If there is any doubt a risk of collision exists, you must take early and positive action to avoid the collision. So how do you know if a risk of collision actually exists? We first need to understand the “principle of relative motion.” Relative motion is the motion of an object with regard to some other moving object. We subconsciously use this principle every day. You’re driving down the road or walking down a street. You see a car or person heading your direction. You notice that their position relative to yours is not changing and they are getting closer. You automatically know that if something does not change you’re going to collide. You can either slow down, speed up or turn and slow down to let them pass in front of you. In the boating world, this is called “constant bearing decreasing range.” This is when the risk of collision exists.

So how do you avoid having an accident when the risk of collision is established? Operating at a safe speed where you have sufficient time to slow your speed to avoid a collision or changing course in sufficient time to remove the risk. The key is vigilance and maintaining a proper lookout at all times to establish when the risk exists. It is important that “any action taken shall be positive, made in ample time and with due regard to good seamanship.” Simply put, once you know there is a risk of collision, take action in plenty of time and give yourself plenty of room to maneuver. Don’t wait until the last minute reducing your options for safe passage. A simple course change or slowing your speed alone may fix the problem but you have to make sure that you do so in a significant enough manner that there is no doubt by the other vessel that you have slowed your speed or changed course. If you have a VHF radio, call the other vessel, discuss your intentions and agree on a course of action. Remember, you can’t force someone else to comply. They have to first have knowledge of the navigation rules and then secondly, a willingness to comply. This is why it is so important to identify and address the risk of collision early enough to be able to safely react if the other vessel is not going to comply.

Rules of the road infographic from BoatUS Foundation.

Powerboat rules of the road infographic from BoatUS Foundation.

Looking at the Navigation Rules book this all seems pretty complex but when you break the rules down into what actually applies to the average recreational boater it’s just basic common sense.  Most accidents could be avoided if the basic rules had been followed, proper lookout, safe speed, identifying the risk of collision and actions to avoid a collision. It all falls down to the basics and the philosophy that, “Superior mariners use their superior knowledge to avoid situations which require their superior skills.” Learn the right way and then apply it!

This is just a brief history and introduction to navigation rules. We have talked about the basics.  In fact, we touched on most of Rules 5 (Lookout), 6 (Safe Speed), 7 (Risk of collision) and 8 (Actions to avoid collision).  My future articles will get closer to the individual rules to decipher their meaning and how they apply to you as a recreational boater.  But, if you remember and apply the four rules we touched on today your risk of collision will decrease dramatically.

*The term “Vessel” is synonymous with “boat” for the purposes of this article.

-By Dan ShipmanUS Coast Guard District 13 Logo, US Coast Guard, District 13

(This blog is part of a series of articles about the federal Navigation Rules for boating.  The Marine Board is required by statute to align state boating laws with federal regulations.)


Benji’s Story -A Cautionary Tale About K9 Safety

The Marine Board reports accident and fatality statistics on Oregon’s waterways each year, and the US Coast Guard reports statistics nationwide.  What often goes unreported are the injuries and accidents with our beloved K9 companions.  Suzanne Foong’s story is a cautionary tale she’d like to share in hopes of averting tragedy for other boating families.

Picture of Benji, a happy Boating Co-Pilot

Happy Boating Co-Pilot

This is my boy, Benji!  July 27, 2018, would have been his first birthday.  He was the most amazing guy, smart, playful and had the most contagious personality! Everyone that met Benji immediately fell madly in love. He had such a great disposition that he was in obedience training and I had plans for him to become an emotional therapy dog- going to hospitals, schools and nursing homes! We went for walks every day, sometimes twice a day because he was so curious and loved going out to experience the world. He loved going to my parent’s house because they live on three acres and he could explore on his own. He enjoyed going to Mudd Bay to pick out his favorite toys and treats. Easy to say, he was the happiest, most loving boy who fell in love with life as everyone fell in love with him.

On July 7, 2018, our family experienced a tragic loss. My kids took him out on the boat on the Columbia River.  He loved being out there; the feel of the wind in his face, swimming around the island, running with the kids and playing ball.  When my kids were going out in the boat, my daughter was sitting with him at the bow, holding on to him while they were heading out to an island.  My son was driving the boat and they were pulling into a beach spot and decided for various reasons that it wasn’t the best place to park the boat.  My son slowly turned away from the island going about 10 mph at most, and my daughter let go with one hand to help navigate. The moment she lifted one hand, Benji jumped into the water right off the front of the boat.  My daughter screamed to stop the engine, but it was too late.  Water was drawn into the prop and Benji never had a chance.  She thought about jumping in after him but her instincts said to wait.  Thank God she didn’t because I would have suffered the loss of my daughter as well.

We have been so devastated by this tragic accident and the loss of our beloved puppy and could not let his death be meaningless.  We want to use this lesson to make a difference in saving the life of another dog or even a child.  I will not tell you that you should not allow children and dogs in the front of the boat, that dogs should be tethered, or that they should always wear life jackets; that is for you to decide.  Just take note and pay attention to our sorrow and learn from our loss.  We do not want any other family to experience this kind of tragic accident again, and we think the more people are aware of how dogs or kids behave in their excitement, the less this will happen.  What I have learned from this experience is to be grateful for what you have, take nothing for granted, love deeply and live each day fully because it is a gift!

Here are a couple pictures below of Benji the day of the accident just as they were getting on to the boat. He was so excited and happy to be out there on the water, you can just see it on that sweet face of his!







We know he’s having a ball up there in doggy heaven.


The Oregon State Marine Board recommends closely monitoring animals and children when docking, beaching, or entering boat slips.  It’s not uncommon for dogs to jump out of a boat or kids to reach their hands out.  It’s up to each boating family to decide how to plan for safety.  Many thanks to Suzanne for reaching out to the Marine Board and her courage to bring this issue forward in hopes of raising awareness for other families.  Rest in peace, sweet Benji.

Sturdivant park docks soon to be replaced

February 22, 2018
Nicholas A. Johnson, The World

Sturdivant Park's dock

A dock floats Wednesday in the Coquille River near the boat launch at Sturdivant Park in Coquille. The dock saw damage during a 2015 flood and is slated for repair. -Ed Glazar, The World

COQUILLE — After two years of planning and collecting funds the city the Coquille is waiting to hear back on a grant from the Oregon State Marine Board to replace the docks at Sturdivant Park along the Coquille River.

The project, with contingencies, will cost around $600,000. Coquille has already received $93,000 from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and $52,000 from the Port of Bandon. The missing amount of funds the city hopes to get through its grant with OSMB that grant being just over $250,000.

“This is a big ticket for what’s basically a Parks and Rec thing. However, it’s a big deal to Coquille to have that boat ramp and transient dock open and working because it brings a lot of people to town,” Public Works director for Coquille Kevin Urban said.

Oregon State Marine Board brought the project to the attention of the city when it looked into its stability in 2015. It reported back that most of the docks were end of life, end of service.

Urban said he’s not sure exactly how old the docks are, because he can’t find any documentation as to when they were built. However, he suspects they are around 25 years old.

Not all of the parts of the docks are bad. There are some aluminum sections that are still in good shape and will be used with the new docks.

The main issue with the old docks stems from how they were built. They were not built to accommodate rising tides as a result of heavy rains.

“The gangplank was solid at level, in other words it would go down but it wouldn’t go past a level height. So there were a couple of times when the water has gotten higher than that and it’s snapped,” Urban said.

The new plan will place floats under the gangplank so that it rises with the river.

If it elects to help fund the project there are certain things that the OSMB won’t pay for.  For example, the new dock plan will have an area where folks can fish off the dock and OSMB is strictly involved with boating. Money donated by ODFW will go toward making the fishing section of the docks.

“Fish and Wildlife came through and said, ‘OK here’s that portion for people fishing off the docks’. People always did fish off those docks even though they weren’t supposed to. Every time a sign was put up that said ‘no fishing’ it disappeared very quickly. There’s probably a dozen of them at the bottom of the river,” Urban said.

OSMB has been working with the city since it first recognized that the docks need to be replaced back in 2015. They helped with planning and profiles as well as conducting surveys and finding cost estimates.

“They also helped put together the joint permit application for the Corps of Engineers and the Department of State Lands which is a huge long permit, it calls for so much technical information. The fella who did it at state marine board, he and his staff are just incredibly knowledgeable,” Urban said.

If all goes well construction on the docks should start this summer.

Aside from being popular place to fish on the Coquille River, the docks at Sturdivant Park are the access point for law enforcement when it needs to patrol the river.

Urban was very grateful for all the support he’s received from both government agencies and the public during the grant witting process.

If for some reason OSMB isn’t able to fund the grant for the docks, Urban will be looking for private donations to see the project through.

“It’s all crossed fingers at this point. I think it’s a strong grant, but you never can tell. OSMB has definitely been involved and I think they want to see the project through, but if it doesn’t happen we’ll just have to find another way. I’ve done that before and we’ll find a way to get it done,” Urban said.

The Sturdivant Park docks are currently the largest project the City of Coquille is working on.

“We have money, we have manpower, and we also have some materials that we can use for putting in the docks … We’re done with our plans, we’re done with our permitting, now we’re just trying t pull together our funding,” Urban said.


The Marine Board is funded by registration, title fees and marine fuel taxes paid by motorized boaters.  No general fund tax dollars are used to support the agency or its programs.  Boater-paid fees go back to boaters in the form of law enforcement services (on-the-water enforcement, training and equipment), education/outreach materials and boating access facility grants.  The Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit program is dedicated funding to pay for border inspection stations, decontamination equipment, inspectors, and signage/outreach materials.  For more information about the Marine Board and its programs, visit

New Marine Board Member on Board

Wake the World Oregon Coordinator, and new Board Member, Vince Castronovo

Wake the World Oregon Coordinator, and new Board Member, Vince Castronovo

Agency staff would like to “Welcome Aboard” our newest Board member, Vince Castronovo.  Vince fills the seat of former member, Brian Carroll from Linn County.  His term on the Board began in October and runs through June, 2021.

Castronovo’s boating passion began at an early age when his father brought home their first boat; an eight foot row boat to play in the pond across the street from where he grew up.  The family quickly moved up to a runabout a few years later, when the passion for motor boating really took a foothold.

Boating remains a very special part of Castronovo’s own family life and a new purpose with passion developed that has become a family-affair.  In 2012, Castronovo began an Oregon affiliate with “Wake the World,” from North Carolina where kids in foster care are given a opportunity to spend a day on the water to learn watersports.  Castronovo started out with one event with 24 boats, to nine events involving over 100 volunteers and over 50 boats that serve hundreds of kids in Oregon and Washington.

Castronovo not only organizes the events, he’s taken on the responsibility of being a coordinator and boat operator for the events as well.  As to why Castronovo wanted to have a seat on the Board, he said, “I want to make sure that boating safety is a high priority. I decided to become more involved with the Marine Board to learn the ins and outs of boating laws, policies, and planning.”  Castronovo adds, “I started out volunteering as a member of the Marine Board’s Watersports Boat Oregon Advisory Committee in 2016, and with over 45 years of boating experience and a passion to help keep boating safe for all who use our waterways, I hope to offer my voice and experience to the Board in making decisions that impact recreational boating.  I look forward to representing the watersports community and finding ways to improve boating enjoyment for all!”

Castronovo works as a Project Manager for a flooring company (over 29 years) and in addition to riding waves, also serves as a pet rescue to nine critters.

Marine Board members are confirmed by the Senate, appointed by the Governor and serve four year terms.  The Board members serve at the pleasure of the Governor and the agency Director reports directly to the Marine Board.  All members are volunteers (non-paid positions) from the general public with a background in Oregon boating. 

Wake the World Oregon -Making Waves and Making a Difference

Event Organizers of Wake the World Oregon

Event Organizers for Wake the World Oregon

Mesmerizing fog hovers over the early morning hours at Henry Hagg Lake as trailered boats and big rigs start launching and stage themselves close to the dock, ready for their crews to arrive.  Each “crew” is made up of experienced wakeboard boaters with a passion for watersports and a desire to give of themselves, so local foster kids can experience an opportunity of a lifetime –a day on the water.  There’s also a flotilla of caring volunteers who are the thread in the needle that weaves all of the on-water and shore-side activities together.

“Wake the World” all started in 2008, when a near-death car accident led founder Greg Hodgin to a calling to serve a higher purpose.  He created “Wake the World,” a non-for-profit 401 (3)(c) organization as a means of giving back; to use his skills as a U.S. Masters Wakeboard Champion in a special way to offer foster kids a day to “just be a kid” and pass along his passion for watersports.

How Wake the World Works

Wake the World flotilla heading out to meet up with their families on a beach area on Foster Lake

Wake the World flotilla with (42 boats) heading out to meet up with their families at a beach area for the Foster Lake event.

There are many event organizers in several states who share a similar passion and follow in the wake created by Hodgin.  Hodgin says, “Each foster family is assigned to their own boat with a boat driver for the entire day.  When the kids find out how the event works, a typical reaction is, “This is our boat -all day?!”  Serious joy comes to their faces. Hodgin adds, “We give the kids an opportunity to learn how to wakeboard, wake surf, tube, and use zup boards…the list goes on.  We provide a day of fun doing whatever the kids want. We strive to give them a day that brings joy, tons of smiles and to let them know they are loved by so many,” Hodgin says with a smile.

Going Hog Wild on Hagg Lake

By the time the fog burned off, families started to arrive at Hagg Lake.  The Hagg Lake “Wake the World” event, organized by Mark Crowell, marks the first out of seven Wake the World events planned in Oregon for the summer of 2017.  Families were given a quick orientation and overview of the day, and then they are paired up with their boat.  Each boat heads out to get everyone acclimated to the water and learning the proverbial, “ropes.”   Around noon, the boats start to come in.  Everyone is served lunch, and after a short rest, they get to go out again until they’re tired and hungry for dinner.  Meals and other goodies are provided by generous sponsors.

Shore volunteers connecting the families with their boats for the day.

Shore volunteers helping connect the families with their boats and helping everyone get acclimated.

Vince Castronovo, a new member to the Marine Board’s Watersports Boat Oregon Advisory Team, helped kick-start Wake the World Oregon in 2011.  “It started with just a few boats and a few families and as more people got involved as drivers or shore volunteers, the momentum picked up.  It’s so exciting to see each event grow year to year,” says Castronovo.  The events are held during the weekday to not impact plans of other boaters.  As boats arrive, they stage themselves and take turns quickly launching, then waiting on the water nearby until it’s time to pick up their families.  Volunteers on shore greet each family with a placard with their name on it, and then take them to their boat.  It’s there when each boat operator does general introductions, explains boating safety rules, and waits for the kids to tell them what they want to do.

When asked about why he wanted to bring “Wake the World” to Oregon, Castronovo said, “I’m right there with Greg.  So many kids are let down by adults.  I thought, if there’s a way I can help shift how a kid looks at life, then I’m giving back in the best way possible.  What better way to shift a life perspective than to connect kids to the water?”  Castronovo adds, “Many kids don’t know how to swim and have never been exposed to boating and I can show them!  I can offer up my boat and my time and possibly make a positive impact on a kid’s life.”   What an impact, too.  The energy, the smiles, the laughter; it’s contagious.  One of the two events organized by Castronovo on Foster Lake enrolled 42 wakeboard boats, 170 kids, and 50 other shore volunteers.  Castronovo also served as a boat driver for the Hagg Lake event and tries to participate in as many Oregon “Wake the World” events that he can, along with his supportive, energizing family members.

Nicholas -expressing his pure joy on his first ride.

Nicholas -expressing his pure joy on his first ride.

Back on Hagg Lake, after pairing up with his assigned family, Castronovo began with a quick safety talk on wearing life jackets, about what to do when the boarder is down, the important job of being a spotter, and that everyone in the boat needs to be his “extra eyes and ears” while he focuses on driving.  It was quite a thing to witness, being on a boat with a family who had never been on the water before.  Two of the kids assigned to Castronovo’s boat, Michael and Nicholas, were excited to try the zup board, which is wider than a typical wake board, but equipped with side handles and a front harness for the tow rope.  The rider can either lie down on the board or stand up holding on to the tow rope.  One of the kids, Nicholas, said he wanted to get on a board and “fly.”  It was also during the first excursion Castronovo carefully explained what he was going to do as the driver and what the boarder needed to do to communicate –with hand signals.  It only took a few falls and a few passes for everyone to figure things out.  At one point, Castronovo said, “See that boat coming up on us to the starboard, right side?  He’s overtaking us, so that means I need to keep the same speed and direction so he can safely pass us.  That’s one of the boating rules-of-the-road.”

Nicholas flying on his zup board.

I’m flying!

Michael started things off by hopping onto the board and within minutes, was trying to figure out how to maneuver the board over the wake for the most air time.  After a few trips around the lake, it was Nicholas’ turn.  From the moment Nicholas got on the board, to the minute he stopped, he was grinning from ear to ear.  At one point, Nicholas did fly, letting go of the hand holds and flapping his arms like a swan.  Everyone’s heart cracked wide open in that moment with collective “awe’s,” and claps from everyone in the boat.


Wake the World founder, Greg Hodgin with Vince Castronovo and Michael, being show how to stand up and hold on to the zup board for the next tow.

Wake the World founder, Greg Hodgin with Vince Castronovo and Michael, being show how to stand up and hold on to the zup board for the next tow.

For the next go around, Michael was ready to stand on the zup board, so Greg carefully demonstrated what Michael needed to do and how to begin standing while he was being towed.  It didn’t take long before Michael was up and leaning back like a pro, riding the wake to and fro with effortless ease.  Both of these boys were clearly water-babies and were naturals at watersports, eager to learn and soaking up all of the tips they could from Hodgin and Castronovo.

By the early afternoon, young Michael seemed particularly interested in the boat operation and Castronovo let him take the helm to get a sense of how the boat maneuvered.  Michael played it cool, and appeared to be in deep concentration as he carefully listened to Castronovo’s commands.  “Future boat captain right here!” exclaimed Castronovo.

Wake the World was a Wake-Up Call

Hodgin congratulating Nicholas for a successful first run on a zup board.

Hodgin congratulating Nicholas for a successful first run on a zup board.

What wasn’t lost in this “Wake the World” experience was the collective knowledge, skill and planning that took place, with seamless ease.  Boats launched and retrieved quickly.  Operators communicated amongst each other well, and the worst injury of the Camp Agape (Foster Lake) event was a small cut on the knee.  The planning and detail of each event was meticulous, and everyone was able to “go with the flow,” when something didn’t go according to plan.  Operators displayed courtesy, were careful not to wake other boats, and kept their distance from other water recreationists.  Unlike so many of the negative stories the Marine Board hears about wake boat operation, this event brought out the very best in everyone and they set a standard for being ambassadors for watersports.  There were extra boats in case one broke down, extra drivers, ample volunteers, plenty of life jackets, first responders, lots of different towing devices, and most of all…generous watersport enthusiasts being tremendous role models with skills to share and big hearts to make it all happen –so the kids could be kids.

Prepping for success. A bounty of life jackets in different sizes and styles to "fit" everyone's needs.

Prepping for success. A bounty of life jackets in different sizes and styles to “fit” everyone’s needs.

“The thing about giving back is it all comes back to you,” Hodgin and Castronovo both echo.

The Marine Board sees great advocates for wakeboarding and other watersports in this incredible organization.  What they’re doing begs for more.

If you’d like to awaken your own spirit of giving, check out Wake the World Oregon to take part in this tremendous organization.