Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Norris Lake Flotilla are now prepared to play an active role in promoting boating safety on the lake.

“Our flotilla is now beginning its third year,” reports Flotilla Commander Ernest Cornett of Speedwell. “After a lot of work equipping several boats and a lot of time preparing to take and pass qualification tests, we are ready to fully carry out our mission of promoting boating safety on the lake this summer.”

Boats used by the flotilla must pass a strict inspection and be equipped with a number of required items. These include but are not limited to radio communications equipment, signaling flares, observation binoculars, heavy-duty towing ropes and cleats, throwing lines, fire extinguishers, first aid supplies, search and rescue equipment and special navigation charts.

Two local boats have now met all requirements and are registered as official U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary facilities. These include a 23-foot, open-bow SeaRay owned by Daniel Panzara of Norris Crest and a 20-foot, Odyssey 300 Series pontoon boat owned by Richard Johnson of LaFollette. These two boats will be used by flotilla members to patrol the lake this summer.

Flotilla members participating in lake-patrol operations must be qualified. Members Charles Gladwell of Caryville and Panzara have passed the written exams, oral test and water exercises necessary to qualify as coxswain. Members Bill Smith of Jacksboro and Cornett have passed the written exams, oral test and water exercises to qualify as crewmembers.

These members along with other qualified members from flotillas in the Knoxville area will be patrolling the lake this summer. While on patrol, they will be in radio contact with the U.S. Coast Guard Ohio Valley Headquarters personnel in Kentucky and with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) officers on the lake.

The first official patrol operated by the Norris Lake Flotilla took place on Monday, Nov. 9, 2010. Coxswain Wayne Schnell from Knoxville along with crewmembers Katie Petersen from Knoxville, Cornett and Panzara patrolled the Cove Creek area of Norris Lake in a SeaRay.

While on patrol, they encountered a houseboat in distress on the lake. The engine had stopped operating and the owner did not have the tools necessary to install a needed new spark plug.

Patrol members were able to pick up a friend of the boat owner and bring him back to the houseboat with the required tools. The engine was quickly repaired and the boat was able to return to its marina.

Before departing, though, the boat owner asked why the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary members were on the lake. “We are here to help people like you,” responded Flotilla Commander Cornett.

The Auxiliary is the civilian component of the U.S. Coast Guard, created by an act of Congress in 1939. Members must be at least 17 years old and make a commitment to complete a federal background check and participate in basic boating safety training. Members do not have to own a boat. Members are issued a federal identification card, proudly wear the Coast Guard Auxiliary uniform and are eligible to receive service awards.

If you are interested in providing an important service to your community, enjoy on-the-water activities, seek opportunities for marine training, and would like to meet others with similar interest; please consider joining the Norris Lake Coast Guard Flotilla. For more information, call Public Information Officer Mike McDonough at 423-562-8017.