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Blow it up for boater safety

Ready. Set. Inflate.

A boating safety awareness event Thursday is sure to leave participants breathless. At 10 a.m. Central time, people throughout the United States and Canada are simultaneously blowing up inflatable life jackets. People can join organized events, like the one in front of the Lake Superior Maritime Museum in Canal Park, or gather with friends for a "little jacket inflation party."

Even if you don't have an inflatable jacket, you can show support by wearing a rigid life vest at the event, said Dan Knight, flotilla commander for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

"I'm trying to get an inflatable one myself," he admitted.

The event, organized by the National Safe Boating Council and the Canadian Safe Boating Council, is being organized to promote life jacket use and general boating safety information. The Coast Guard Auxiliary decided to participate.

"One of the reasons I joined the auxiliary is to have people be safe on the water," Knight said. "If I can save one person, I would be thankful for that."

Federal law mandates children 13 and younger wear life jackets at all times on boats or piers, he said, but it's a good idea for everyone to wear them.

"The most important thing right now is boaters need to wear their life jackets," Knight said. "I want them to be safe on the water.

With national safe boating week just around the corner -- May 22-28, he said, now is the perfect time to set up a free vessel safety check. Last year, auxiliary members conducted 80 safety inspections in parking lots and hope to double that this year. Boating checks are good, Knight said, but life jackets are better. He said 90 percent of the people who drown are not using one.

To request a vessel safety check, call Knight at (715) 392-4558 or e-mail