Water and boater safety course resources in Calhoun County

VICTORIA, Texas – On this past weekend’s episode of Community Crossroads we featured boater safety tips from Captain RJ Shelly. Shelly works for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office based out of Calhoun County.

The following is a transcript:

Carolina Astrain: Welcome back to this weekend’s edition of Community Crossroads. We just heard from Meridith Byrd with the Victoria Farmers’ Market about the summer harvest. And if you miss it, and you’re just now tuning in, be sure to click on Community Crossroads at CrossroadsToday.com to check that out. And now we’re joined by Captain RJ Shelley with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office based out of Calhoun County. Welcome to the show.

RJ Shelly: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Astrain: And so RJ talked to us about this child safety swim program that ya’ll put together.

Shelly: Well, we have a basic water safety program that we do with the Calhoun County YMCA kids, and the Calhoun 4-H Sports Fishing Club and basically we need to get these kids used to be in around the water in a safe fashion. And so, uh, part of what we do is we line them up at the swimming pool with the Calhoun YMCA lifeguards in the water and on the deck, and then myself and the Y YMCA director from Calhoun county, who is the one that trains the lifeguards. We fit every kid for a life jacket. So we pick the right size for them. We put it on them and then we test the fit by having them hold their hands over their head. And we come in behind them and check it. And then we have the kids jump into the pool so that they can see that that life jacket is gonna float them. Uh, and then once they’re in the pool, uh, with the small ones, like the six to seven-year-olds, we just have them. I tell them they have a license to chill and we try to get them to just lay back and float in the jacket so that they know it will hold them up.

Astrain: Speaking of jackets shortly, we’ll also be talking about inflatable safety jackets just shortly, right after this break.

Astrain: Welcome back, we’re joined by Captain RJ Shelly with the Calhoun County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office and he’s here to show us these interesting life jackets. Now, these are very impressive to me. They look different than your normal, you know, orange, traditional life jacket. So what’s the difference?

Shelly: These are inflatable life jackets, and a lot of adults will wear these in order to be legal. You have to be at least 16 years old to wear one of these. The beauty of them is it’s a lot cooler in the South Texas heat and it will float an adult. So there are two types. This one right here is called a manually inflatable life jacket in order to get it to blow up and float you, you pull that tube. The reason you would use a manual jacket, we use these on kayaks canoes. Anything you can use in wade fishing, anything where you will get wet because you don’t want it to go off automatically. This one here is an auto inflatable. And so this thing will, there’s a CO2 cartridge in it, and it will go off and inflate as soon as it touches water. So this would be used on a powerboat, you know, bay boat, skiff, anything where you could go overboard at a high rate of speed and possibly hit your head. Because that way, if you’re knocked unconscious, when you hit the water, this is going to inflate and keep your head above the water.

Astrain: You can buy these at a local shop anywhere?

Shelly: Yeah. You can buy these at any kind of sporting goods store that deals with water sports, any of your Marine dealers.

Astrain: Well, this is great to know, especially as we go into our next segment where we’re going to talk about voter safety education classes offered to adults, don’t go anywhere. We’ll be right back.

Astrain: Welcome back. We’re joined by Captain RJ Shelly to talk about the Texas Parks and Wildlife Boater Safety Education course, RJ, welcome and what can you tell us about this course?

Shelly: Well, we offer the boater education course that is required by parks and wildlife about every two years. This next spring, the spring of 2022, we will probably offer it again in Calhoun County. We usually try to do it in late February, early March, before Spring Break. And the goal is to get people educated before the boating season and in the state of Texas, anyone born after September 1st, 1993, has to have voter education in order to be able to operate a vessel by themselves.

Astrain: And what have been some of the more surprising aspects of teaching this course?

Shelly: Probably the range of people we’ve had. You know, I have a lot of young people that come in, they have to be at least 12 when they take the course in order to get the certification but I have some under 12 where the parents know they like to be out on the water a lot and they want them to learn the information and then they’ll come back and take it again when they’re old enough to get certified but then I have grandparents, you know, coming with them, bringing the grandchildren with a lot of kids and the grandparents will take the course.

Astrain: Wow. So it really becomes a family affair.

Shelly: Definitely. That’s fishing with grandpa or their dad and they all come out.

Astrain: And how often do, you offer these courses, or is it all year round?

Shelly: Um, we’ll offer once a year, every other year. So next spring we’re due to have one, um, it’s a fairly large event to put on and that’s why we don’t do it every year in Calhoun County. You can get the courses online and in other locations, but in Calhoun County, we try to make this a hands-on course. So I bring in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the U.S. Coast Guard Station Port O’Connor. They bring a boat in, we brought in Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden with their boat. We had the Port Lavaca Fire Department there along with we had outboards, we had sailboats jet skis, kayaks. We have it all onsite.

Astrain: So you really get to know the coastal community at the same time, identify all the key players and people that work to protect you.

Shelly: Yeah. And that way you’re not just reading it in a book or taking an online course.

Astrain: Oh yeah. I do terribly with online classes. I have to have it in-person and at least the lecture component.

Shelly: And if we do a lot of that outside in our parking lot, the fairgrounds, so last time the coast guard set off a flare right there. So people would know how to do it because the last thing you want is the first time you ever learned how to do a flare is when your boat sinking. So we try to teach them that information before there’s an emergency.

Astrain: And is there a set fee for the course?

Shelly: Last time we charged about $20 and that includes lunch. We have to send a portion of that. Ten dollars goes back to Texas Parks and Wildlife for the certification and then we had their lunch cooked for them because it’s an all-day course. It’s about a seven-hour course.

Astrain: To reach Captain RJ Shelly, call him 361-552-9747 or email him at rj.shelly@tamu.edu and thank you again for coming on and sharing your information about boater safety tips and I hope to see you again sometime soon.

Shelly: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.

Astrain: All right. Well, don’t go anywhere coming up. We’ll hear from Christy  Youker with Keep Victoria Beautiful. Don’t go anywhere.