Boat Training With Our Colleagues

As most of you know, boats are an essential tool for many oil spills to reach and collect affected wildlife. OSPR and OWCN maintain a fleet of vessels that is dedicated to wildlife recovery during spills, and staff periodically attend trainings to review boating safety and skills and learn how to operate new equipment.

I recently had the opportunity to join some of my OWCN colleagues for two such trainings. The first was the Motorboat Operator Training Course (MOTC) refresher. The MOTC is a comprehensive 3-5-day course that covers safe boating operation, which should be taken by anyone who is regularly boating or may be a primary boat operator. A 1-day refresher class is required every 5 years to refresh knowledge and skills. During April I had the privilege of joining Kyra, Wendy, Jamie, and Jennie for an MOTC refresher through UC Davis in Bodega Bay. We reviewed things like field safety planning, vessel safety checks and inspections, knot tying skills, maintenance and record keeping, and did several practical exercises on the water. The course was tailored to the type of vessel operations we might use for wildlife recovery during a spill, and it was extra beneficial because I was working side by side with my OWCN colleagues, just as I would during a spill.

Colleen, Jamie, Jennie, Wendy, and Kyra during the MOTC Refresher Class at the
Bodega Bay Marine Lab

The second training was one I’ve been waiting for since I started in my current role with OSPR in 2011. The Airboat Operations Course hasn’t been offered through CDFW since 2010, so I was ecstatic to finally be able to take it. I had never operated an airboat before, so I had a lot to learn. The course covered pre-operation checks, maneuvering, loading/unloading, and, of course, safety. You might think that if you’ve driven one boat you can drive any boat, but the operation of an airboat is much different than the small skiffs I traditionally operate. One of the primary considerations is being aware of your wake and making sure it doesn’t come into the boat when you stop or turn. I was also surprised to learn that airboats maneuver much more smoothly on mud or wet vegetation than on water. This training was just the beginning of my journey of becoming an experienced airboat operator, and it was great to share it with Wendy and Jennie. I was also lucky to have Tim and Randy (retired, formerly with OSPR) as two of the 8 wonderful instructors. Although I hope we never have a situation requiring use of airboats for an oil spill, I am grateful to be more familiar with their use and operation should we need them to access shallow or muddy wetland or marsh habitat. Until then, I’m looking forward to many more trainings with my OWCN colleagues.

Colleen Young (Guest Blogger from CDFW-OSPR)

Colleen is an Environmental Scientist for CDFW’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz. Her primary job duties include oil spill contingency planning for sea otters and other marine wildlife, maintaining response equipment and working as part of the Wildlife Recovery team during spills.

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