Former Mustang resident details water safety this Memorial Day

The water is not your best friend.

Michael Ellis, Oklahoma City Sail and Power Squadron public relations officer, leans against his trailer. The former Mustang resident stands by a life jacket and two life vests, which he said are one of the most important necessities to have on a boat for each crew member. Photo / Haley Humphrey

Michael Ellis, Oklahoma City Sail and Power Squadron public relations officer, said it’s vital people remember this when they hop into boats this Memorial Day weekend. Understanding water and knowing boat safety saves lives, he said.

Drowning is the leading cause of death over the holiday weekend and throughout summer months, especially among children.

The former squadron commander has been a member for 15 years, making it his mission to educate people on the water.

“The idea is to go out there in an environment that is hostile to our living conditions, have fun, return home safely, so you can go back and do it again,” Ellis said.

The club was established in 1971.

Currently, there are 38 members. Nearly half of the members are from Mustang and Yukon.

The organization, which is District 21, makes up Texas and Oklahoma and is part of the U.S. Power Squadrons. Ellis and other members teach courses to people about beginning boat education and more.

The U.S. Air Force aircraft recovery veteran grew up on the water. Like many of the squadron’s members, Ellis has 20 plus years of experience on the water.

Course knowledge ranges from knowing how to use a GPS, how to read a compass, how to find a way across water with no landmarks nearby and more.

“A compass can become your best friend,” Ellis said.

The classes also cover weather, how to troubleshoot engine problems and boat and trailer maintenance.

Most boating accidents occur, due to ignorance, malfunction of equipment and ignoring rules, he said.

“You’re only as safe as the weakest link out there,” Ellis added.

Drinking and driving a boat is a disaster waiting to happen, as well, he said.

While water safety rules were established to prevent mishaps, Ellis said they may be broken to save people on a vessel or the boat itself. Green lights are on the right side of boats, while red is on the left.

If a driver does not understand that red means stop, or that a less maneuverable vessel must yield right of way to another boat, and keeps gliding across the water, the captain must determine the best decision to avoid a collision. Power boats are supposed to look out for sail boats, as they are the least maneuverable at times, Ellis said.

The lights are similar to roadways — green means “go,” and red is “stop.”

Boaters are responsible for any damage caused by their wake to the lake, shore or other vessels. Ellis reminded people to be cautious of “no wake” zones that are usually outlined with buoys. 

As people prepare to get on the water or disembark from the boat, Ellis said it’s important to remain patient at the ramp.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Marine Enforcement requires boating education for those who are 12-15. After completing their education, they must carry a card onboard.

“It’s an amazing thing to see how much life can happen in a boat,” Ellis said. “Life on the water is definitely different than life on land.”

To become a squadron member, people can call commander Danny Goss at 405-613-8689. For more information about attending classes, call education officer Bob Hlubin at 405-473-4991.

People can also learn more about the club’s meetings by visiting usps.org/localusps/ok/.

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